Sunday, March 25, 2012

When is Reason Called Speculation? Responding to Rod Meldrum’s Answer – Part IV

Continuing from the last post regarding two questions that were asked in an earlier blog: “Why did the Lord tell Nephi to build a ship unlike ones built by man? And Why did the Lord tell Nephi to work the timbers unlike that of man?” and Rod Meldrum’s uninformed answers, Meldrum wrote in his series of “maybes” of possible reasons:

“6. Maybe they built the framework first and then 'sided' the hull rather than build the hull first and insert the framework”

According to maritime and knowledgeable archaeologists on this matter, there were five methods of ship-building known prior to and during 600 B.C. They were:

• Dug Out – cutting away the interior of a large piece of wood, such as a tree trunk like in a canoe
• Carving or Shaping – using an adze to shape large, cut timbers to the form desired, like the Egyptians did as early as 3000 B.C. in building up from the keep large planks attached to the keel and shaped to the curve desired from bow to stern
• Keel and Rib – lay down a keel and either cut with an adze to shape curved ribs, or find tree limbs, etc., already growing in the shape desired
• Cross Hulling – laying the keel, attaching ribs, then inserting cross-beams between to make the hull more sturdy. The Egyptians used this technique from 3000 B.C. onward
• Keel and Hull – laying the keel, then attaching the hull like the Vikings built their long ships, then adding the rib support

Any one of these methods would have been used by men in the constructing of ships prior to and during the time of Nephi. What he meant when he said “neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men” (1 Nephi 18:2, is not known, but evidently not one of these methods.

“7. Maybe they built the ship in sections rather than from the ground up”

If one had a crane and today’s tools, perhaps there would be some likelihood of such an idea, though seldom is such a concept employed. But in 600 B .C. with limited manpower and little opportunity to move heavy pieces of a pre-constructed ship makes little sense. But more importantly, would be far beyond the ability of the small Lehi Colony along the shores of Irreantum in 600 B.C.

In addition, connecting sections of a wooden ship and making them watertight would be a technique not even the most experienced ship builders of today would employ since the process of joining and then caulking, to ensure both water-right capability, and a ship strong enough to weather storms and deep ocean waves would seem foolhardy.

“8. Maybe the Lord showed Nephi a different way of connecting the beams together”

This is one suggestion that seems reasonable enough. Certainly the Lord showed Nephi how to build a ship different from that of man. However, the problem lies not in HOW but in the original questions of WHY.

Which leads us into the second question. “Why did the Lord have Nephi make the ship itself different from ships of their day?”

Again, Meldrum suggests 10 “maybes” that, for the most part, lack knowledge and understanding of ship building.

“1. Maybe the Lord had Nephi begin with a very deep keel to help in 'tacking' against the winds”

Nephi tells us his ship was driven forth BEFORE the wind. When you tack a vessel, you can sail very close to the wind, meaning, INTO the wind, thus the sail is dragging the ship forward, not pushing it forward. With a ship dependent upon being “driven forth before the wind,” there is no need to tack—a sailing technique, by the way, that was not learned and perfected by mariners for at least fifteen hundred years after Lehi’s voyage to the Land of Promise.

If the Lord showed Nephi and his brothers HOW to sail the ship, it is not mentioned. Only that the ship was built differently. Thus, knowing how to tack would not qualify as building a ship different than that of man. Also, a deep keel would be needed primarily to weather the strong winds, storms, and ocean currents, not laid down for the purpose of being able to tack. Even the Arabian dhows could tack by moving their lateen sails about, and did so with a round hull and no deep keel.

“2. Maybe it was wider or longer than other ships for greater stability on the water, and 3. Maybe it was shorter or thinner than other ships for greater speed to the Promised Land”

Every shipbuilder ever mentioned in historic notes, archaeological findings, etc., has shown that a ship sailing beyond rivers and narrow seas (Red Sea, etc.) is best built to a width to length ratio, which was typically about 5:1, that is, one foot wide for every five feet in length. Numerous ships have been found and measured that come close to that ratio. Warships, on the other hand were wider to accommodate larger crews and weight of guns, especially when firing broadsides. In addition, some lumbering cargo ships of the 17th century were about 4:1 ratio; however, the Viking oar-driven long boats were 7:1, and the later clipper ships were around 9:1. The length of a ship did not necessarily make it faster unless a compensating amount of canvas (sail) was added, such as in the clippers, which had up to six masts, and as many as seven courses (levels) upward to the sky sail. Their speed was over 20 knots (22 knots being the record).

The point is, sailing ships of the day included anywhere from the dhows of one mast, up to larger vessels with two masts, though one was the norm. The main point was the design of the ship (i.e., hull length/canvas/speed) to achieve a hull speed of 1:35, which will be discussed in a later post.

(See the next post, “When is Reason Called Speculation? Responding to Rod Meldrum’s Answer – Part V” for responses to more of Meldrum’s “maybes” that fall far short of knowledgeable answers)

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