Tuesday, March 27, 2012

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

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:

“11. Maybe the Lord showed Nephi how to build a more efficient method of controlling the sails”

Actually, the lateen sail of the “dhows,” and later used on European designs and even later, added to the mizzen (stern) mast on European square-rigged sailing ships, have been found to be the most versatile and efficient type of sail. On the other hand, lateen sails are not pushed by the wind (driven forth before the wind). Only square sails (square-rigged) ships can be driven forth before the wind, especially when sailed by non-mariners of the time. Later, of course, men found out how to tack into the wind, zig-zagging across the direct wind flow, and moving sails so they actually pulled the ship forward.

Left: “dhow” boat with Lateen Sail; Center: Later coastal Caravel Ship with Lateen sails; Right: Deep Sea Caravel Ship with rear Lateen sail

“12. Maybe it had a 'self bailing' system for the upper deck to keep sea water from entering the hold”

Another one of the suggestions that is not worthy of response. Nobody is going to consider that a ship built with a “self-bailing” system to ship excess water as a ship built not after the manner of man. A ship built—not a system built! Interestingly, no ship designer in the 21st century has yet to figure out how not to have excess water not end up in the bilges to be pumped out mechanically.

That concludes Meldrum’s “maybes” to the two questions: 1) “Why did the Lord tell Nephi to build a ship unlike ones built by man?” And 2) “Why did the Lord tell Nephi to work the timbers unlike that of man?”

Note that the questions dealt with WHY, yet all Meldrum’s answers dwelt with HOW. Even when he goes on to add further comment, it all deals with HOW the ship was built. He wrote:

“We can deduce that it had no motor and wasn't powered. It was not like the Jaredite barges but was still considered a "ship." So it could not have been too radically different from ships of their day, for it was still, when all is said and done, a wooden sailing ship. Working the timbers in a different way would not necessarily cause the vessel they were making to no longer be a ship.”

Interestingly enough, there is absolutely no suggestion it was not a ship. Nephi tells us numerous times that it was a “ship” (1 Nephi 17:17-18; 18:2, 4-6, 8, 13, 22). So why even suggest it might not have been a ship? Of course it was a ship. Of course, the definition of a ship in 1828 was: “A vessel or building of a peculiar structure, adapted to navigation, or floating on water by means of sails; particularly ships and other vessels of a large kind, bearing masts—in distinction from boats.”

So what were the common ships of 600 B.C.? Left: A small “dhow,” a boat; Center: A large “dhow,” a ship; Right: A Phoenician replica ship

Meldrom continues: “There are many ways that wooden beams can be put together, as well as the outer planking, the waterproofing, structural elements, etc. For example, did they use mortise/tenon joints or post/beam construction? Either would not have significantly changed the overall configuration of the ship. The point is that working the timbers themselves does not necessitate a radical departure from the overall configuration of then current ships.”

There were basically three ways to work timbers in 600 B.C. in order to shape the hull of a ship. 1) Shaping – using an adze to chip away at the wood until you have the shape you want; 2) Natural – using tree limbs that grew in the shapes you wanted, such as using for curved ribbing; 3) Bending – using wood strips and bending them under pressure. However, the main issue in working timbers of the day would have been a consideration of strength. Coastal vessels, which was all that existed in 600 B.C. along the Nile, Red Sea, and Arabian Sea, did not require strength, but needed light-weight wood with minimal structural work so that these coastal vessels could maneuver close into shore, around islands, etc. These ships would have not had much in the way of interior beams and framing, few, if any bulkheads, and probably no longitudinal frames. Masts were minimal, with moveable yards raised by halyards to raise and lower the single sail.

If a ship was to sail out of sight of land, out into deep water, especially crossing vast oceans where winds and currents are fierce and the pounding on the hull is extreme, then a very different type of construction would be required—thus the working of the timbers would be considerably different.

Overall configuration of these ships are all VERY different, yet all built with wood, with a radical departure from Left: Rounded and curved hull design with oars; Center: Level rail with distinct curve to sharp bow and stern; Right: High bow and stern design, with transom stern and wide bow

The interesting thing is, the Lord actually tells us WHY he had Nephi build a ship unlike that of men of Nephi’s day. He made it quite clear when he told Nephi:

(See the next post, “When is Reason Called Speculation? Responding to Rod Meldrum’s Answer – Part VII” for the answer to the two questions posed and evidently ignored by Meldrum)

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