Friday, May 30, 2014

Sailing a River to the Land of Promise – Part III

Continuing with the Great Lakes and Heartland theories that have Lehi sailing up a river from the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico to reach the theorists’ Land of Promise, this third part concludes the series. Part I, covering the St. Lawrence approach from the northeast out of the Atlantic, and Part II, which was about the Mississippi River approach (especially entering the Delta and trying to sail a deep sea vessel up river), were covered in the previous two posts. Both posts showed how impossible it would have been in 600 B.C., as it was for 2400 years afterward before channels were dug around rapids or the deepening of the main river to a nine-foot depth maintained between Baton Rouge (135 miles upriver from New Orleans) and Minneapolis, Minnesota. 
     In this third and final post we will show the importance of knowing and understanding the conditions of the eastern rivers and the difference between sailing a flat-bottomed river boat and a deep-sea ocean sailing vessel up a river.
Looking downriver on the Mississippi through New Orleans. On the inside bend is (Yellow Arrow) Algiers Point, 114 miles upriver from the Gulf, and across the river on the outside of the bend, (White Arrow) is the Governor Nicholls Street Wharf. The river flows (Green Arrow) toward the Gulf
    The 2350-mile-long river is at its deepest point of 200 feet between Algiers Point (on its right descending bank) and Governor Nicholls Street Wharf (on its left descending bank), including the French Quarter, The Marigny (Faubourg Marigny) and Bywater (where Mardi Gras begins), an overall area referred to as “Sliver by the River,” after Hurricane Katrina because of its higher elevation. From this point upriver to Baton Rouge, a depth of 45 feet is maintained today, but beyond that point a system of 29 locks and dams are required to maintain a 9-foot depth, and at its headwaters outlet of Lake Itasca, Minnesota, it is just 3 feet deep.
    To maintain these Federally mandated depths—45 feet between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and nine feet from there to Minneapolis, the Corps of Engineers continually dredges the river. Before their involvement, only flat-bottomed River Boats could negotiate north of Baton Route because of their shallow draft and ease of both running aground (without damage) and becoming disentangled from sandbars and other shallow depths.
    To understand sailing up the Mississippi, even if there was keel depth to do so (which there was not), is based strictly upon wind and current—and the Mississippi, as is the case with all of that watershed, flows south, downriver! Thus, we need to understand the speed and strength of the water flow of the Mississippi River Nephi's ship would have had to overcome.
Left: Bend of the Mississippi past Algiers Point. Yellow Arrow: Direction of the Bright Field Cargo Vessel; Red Arrow: Governor Nicholls Street Wharf--point of impact; Green Arrow: Flow direction of the Mississippi moving downriver to the Gulf. Right: The Bright Field after impact with the wharf. Several Tugs are needed to keep the ship from drifting down river with the strong current
    According to the U.S. Coast Guard Investigation and Report, the fully loaded downbound Chinese bulk cargo ship, Bright Field, under the command of Master Deng Jing Kuan, after losing propulsion power and unable to effectively steer, swung slowly to port and eventually allided (ship colliding with stationary objects) with the Riverwalk Marketplace complex near downtown New Orleans just above Algiers Point in 1996. Operated by Cosco out of Hong Kong, the eight-year-old Japanese-built ship rammed a pier, condominium, shops and hotel along the docks, causing some 17-million dollars of damage and sixty-six injuries.
    This tragedy points out the importance of being able to steer when moving up and down a river like the Mississippi, especially in light of its treacherous currents and twisting bends. In fact, the Mississippi River around New Orleans is said to be the most difficult waterway to navigate in the world.
    Add to this that the Mississippi in this area generally flows about 4.5 mph toward the Gulf, which is 268,525.584 gallons of water per minute past Algiers Point, which was one of the major factors, outside of equipment failure, that the Bright Field slammed into the docks in New Orleans. In fact, it was the flow of the current that increased the cargo ship to a speed beyond the ship’s rated Sea Speed.
    In addition, because of the high rate of flow during high water periods, today the Corps of Engineers opens the Bonnet Carré Spillway (built in 1932, 33 miles above Algiers Point), which diverts ¼-million cubic feet of water per second. This lowers the river by 4 feet and reduces its flow to combat strong river currents for engine-powered vessels. If such is needed to aid powerful engines to drive a vessel upriver through and past New Orleans, think of Nephi’s ship in 600 B.C.—there was no such assistance possible—the Mississippi River flowed at its original velocity.
The Mississippi River watershed is the fourth largest in the world, extending from the Allegheny Mountains in the east to the Rocky Mountains in the west, and measures about 1.2 million square miles, covering about 40% of the lower 48 states—and all rivers in it flow toward the Gulf of Mexico, or downriver, heavily affecting a sailing ship “driven forth before the wind” trying to sail upriver
    Considering at maximum speed, Columbus’ Santa Maria could travel about 8.5 knots. Now the speed of a ship is based on its ground speed, i.e., the ship’s speed plus the speed of the following current (flowing in the direction the ship is headed). So if the current is 4.5 knots (5.2 mph), Columbus vessel could travel about 15 mph. However, when sailing against the same current, his speed would drop to 9.8 mph. And if he was sailing against the wind, then he would have no forward progress at all. In fact, he would be driven backward at the speed of 15 mph (unless he took down his sails, then he would be driven back at 5.2  mph). This is because a 15th century sailing vessel’s propulsion was strictly wind and current—just like that of Nephi’s ship.
    When you consider all these factors and apply the speed of the current against Nephi’s ship, the shallowness of the Mississippi beyond Baton Rouge (nine feet because the Corps of Engineers continually dredges the river), the wind that usually blows toward the southwest (downriver), and the experience needed to even sail their ship up the Mississippi, let alone negotiate all the crossing eddies, sudden shifts in current, shallow sand bars, etc., it is simply foolishness to suggest that Lehi went up the Mississippi at all.
    And for those who might claim that we don’t know what the Mississippi was like in 600 B.C., roughly 2600 years ago, they might want to realize that scientists who have studied the Mississippi for many years (it is perhaps the most studied river in the world), tell us that the Mississippi has not changed much in the past 10,000 years. Its course has changed from time to time, and certainly other rivers eventually flowed in and out of it, but its basic properties: flow, direction, depth, and the winds that pass over it, have not changed in the past 10,000 years, though man has made its entrance far safer and more reliable for navigation, according to Clint Willson, LSU professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Vincent A. Forte River and Coastal Hydraulics Lab, and an expert in Mississippi River hydraulics and sediment transfer. While the river mouth used to swing back and forth across the eastern half of the Louisiana coast, today it is "a highly engineered massive river system lined with levees and other control structures."
    There is simply no way possible that Lehi could have sailed up the Mississippi River, nor as stated in the first of these three posts, sailed up the St. Lawrence River, to reach the area of the Great Lakes.


  1. I appreciate and agree with your 3 posts about sailing up river. I have just one remaining question. You compare Nephi's ship several times to deep sea sailing ships of the day, and yet, the text says it was not made after the manner of man. Could someone argue that his boat was different enough to navigate one of those rivers? Or, I guess we are assuming whatever manner it was - in order to be a successful deep sea boat, regardless of its exact manner it would not have also been able to navigate shallow dangerous rivers.

  2. “Nephi’s statement is that he did not work the timbers after the manner of men” and “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” (1 Nephi 18:2-3). This suggests two things: 1) the manner in which the main frame (timbers), including the keel, hull, deck and other such areas were laid down and built; and 2) the appearance and function of the ship was different.
    In addition, in 1828 the word “timber” related to “Standing trees which are suitable for the uses above mentioned, as a forest contains excellent timber; or to the beams, rafters, scantling, boards, planks, etc. hewed or sawed from such trees,” and “In ships, a timber is a rib or curving piece of wood, branching outward from the keel in a vertical direction. One timber is composed of several pieces united in one frame.” Thus, the manner in which shipwrights of Nephi’s day constructed a ship or boat was not the method of construction Nephi used.
    What exactly was the difference is not known; however, it would have had to be far stronger than coastal boats of the day to have withstood four days of constant pounding during the storm that threatened to capsize the ship when Nephi was tied up and the Liahona stopped working. Thus, it would be assumed that the design, whatever it was, would be seaworthy in the deep ocean, which by convention, even today, requires a deep keel to keep the ship upright in both bad weather and in the use of sail(s).
    Such a design, from all that we have been able to learn would not have succeeded in going from the deep sea into small rivers and inland shallow waterways.
    As for not being built after the manner of men in Nephi’s day, particularly within the sphere in which he lived, there were no “deep sea” vessels built. The boats they had were dhows, a simple fishing vessel, from one-man size to ones that held a dozen men. These were shallow-draft coastal fishing boats not capable of enduring the pounding of deep ocean sailing. The deep-sea vessels used for comparison were those built nearly a thousand years after Lehi’s time.