Saturday, January 26, 2019

Exactly Who Was Hagoth and What Happened to Him?

Hagoth was a man who lived in the last century BC, in the area of the Land North, that is, north in the Land Southward. As clearly stated in the closing verses of the Book of Alma, he was a Nephite ship-builder, and an “exceedingly curious” man (Alma 63:5). Unfortunately, most theorists have misinterpreted the term “curious” to mean he was an adventurer, explorer, and a migrator. Many used this misinterpretation to suggest he sailed to far off lands and was never heard from again, others claim he was stranded on some distant land, others claim he migrated into the Land Northward in one of his ships.
    However, the scriptural record, as short as it is—there are only six verses involving the story of Hagoth—makes it clear he built ships, and at one point, built “exceedingly large” ships (Alma 63:5). Hagoth, then was a shipwright—a carpenter skilled in ship construction and repair. Anciently, as today, ships were built on shipways (slipways) that slope from the place of construction down to the water. These shipways were out in the open, near the sea, where wood was available or could be obtained, and where the sea was protected as a cove, bay, inlet, or large enough river for the boat to then enter into the sea.
Hagoth built “exceedingly large” ships in a shipyard along the West Sea where the land narrows and the narrow neck leads into the Land Northward

When we remove all the unfounded speculation of theorists, we find Hagoth was a simple, but creative ship builder, or shipwright. In an era of small ships, probably used for river or coastal fishing—the coastal waters off Peru, Ecuador and Chile are considered a fisherman’s paradise—he began building very large ships. Before him, no doubt, the Nephite ship-building industry was limited to small craft, likely to take advantage of the unique currents off the coast. This powerful current called the Humboldt, or Peruvian Current, is a cold, low-salinity ocean current that flows north along the west coast from the southern Chile to northern Peru Flowing in the direction of the equator, this current brings cold water fro    m the Antarctic northward with its nutrient-rich cold water rising to the surface.
    Marine ecosystems are strongly influenced by salinity, temperature and the flow of ocean currents. Eggs and larvae of fish and other animals drift with the currents from the spawning grounds to nursery areas where they feed and grow. Along the coast of South America, the tides near the shore, and the upwelling currents from below, dictate the place where fish retain their structure and concentrate food in circular movements of water that lead to small whirlpools and deeper nutrient-rich water pushing to the surface.
    Along this 3,000-mile coastal shore, these waters support one of the largest upwelling events in the world because of the Humboldt Current, and is one of the most productive fisheries on the planet. Its coastal territory encompasses a large variety and wide range of natural habitats laid out in a somewhat linear fashion from south to north in addition to its adjacent open ocean habitation.
    Because of the 40-mile wide, 3660-mile-long Peru-Chile Trench, approximately 95 miles off the coast, an enormous upwelling of cold, nutrient-filled water constantly rises to the surface, the largest upwelling system in the world. This increase in nutrients generates a large amount of primary productivity and support a very dynamic ecosystem from central Chile to northern Peru, fueled by the producers phytoplankton and algae. These in turn are fueled by the cold, nutrient rich waters that move in support of the large increase in biomass, which are the main producers within this food web.
Sailing far off the coast ships needed to be sturdy, large, and capable of withstanding the powerful Humboldt Current 

The ships needed to sail out to these waters nearly a hundred miles off the coast would need to be larger and more seaworthy than small coastal craft and river canoes, a much more involved ship building expertise and area would be needed than some inner river. However, since archaeologists have found nothing larger than dugout canoes and small, reed boats along the coast of Andean South America, as well as Central and Mesoamerica, they have assumed for a century that the indigenous ancients did no deep water sailing. Even the larger coastal vessel with sails that Pizarro saw along the Peruvian coast was far smaller than his own ship in which he sailed from Mexico, and though surprised by its size in comparison to the native canoes he had seen among the Aztecs and natives of Central America, they easily and quickly overtook the native vessel and captured it.
    However, by the last century BC, we know the Nephites were building vessels, and eventually “exceedingly large” ships, that would have been capable of handling deep ocean sailing. These latter ships that Hagoth built, which were those immigrants boarded to sail northward and to unknown destinations, were not capable of sailing very far into rivers, if at all. Nor were they intended to transport people into the Land Northward, since their size and cost would have prohibited short distance travel. Besides, as Helaman states of the Nephites, they were involved in “shipping and the building of ships” (Helaman 3:14), thus already had ships that could move people up the coast into the Land Northward and along rivers.
Hagoth built “exceedingly large” ships, meaning he built much larger ships than had previously been built by the Nephites

The ships Hagoth built were ships that took migrants to far off lands, that sailed out into the sea for some distance, that reached detached Central America, and the Polynesian islands. Ships that took Nephites and some converted Lamanites, to lands from which they were never heard from again—that is, lands that were not physically connected to the Land of Promise, beyond the shores of their large island (2 Nephi 10:20).
    Without knowledge of such abilities and vessels of antiquity, archaeologists and anthropologists were forced to believe and hypothesize that western Polynesia was settled from the east and came up with the flawed notion that these settlers came from the west, somehow sailing into the force of winds and currents that did not flow in that direction.
    So how did the Nephites come up with the idea of building “exceedingly large” ships? Mormon tells us quite clearly when he writes that Hagoth was “an exceedingly curious man” (Alma 63:5). There are two parts to understand about this statement:
1. Exceedingly in 1829 at the time of the translation by Joseph Smith, meant “to a very great degree; in a degree beyond what is usual; greatly; very much.” Thus, the ships Hagoth built were “to a very great degree” larger than those that had been built previously, “in a degree beyond what was usual” for his day.
2. Curious was defined as “Inquisitive, addicted to research or enquiry, as a man of a curious turn of mind.” It was also described as “accurate, careful not to make mistakes; solicitous to be correct; curious after things elegant and beautiful; difficult to please; exact; made with care; artful, diligent; wrought with care; neat and finished.”
Hagoth built a shipyard where he built several large ships, some of which carried Nephite emigrants to “a land which was northward,” disconnected from the Land of Promise

In such a description, we find the man Hagoth was an artist, a man committed to excellence, one who was inquisitive as to how things worked and addicted to solving problems and finding answers. One who was careful to be precise, difficult to please, and exact, making things with care. Stated differently, he was a shipwright who sought to improve his craft, constantly working to do better, and solve the problems he faced. In short, he built ships better than others, making more difficult and better designed ships, building them after lengthy study, planning, and organizing.
    Obviously, he was quite successful, for he built several “exceedingly large” ships that carried emigrating men, women, and children along with their supplies for a new life, into lands “which were northward,” (Alma 63:4-8) as well as ships that could carry timber for construction to the Land Northward (Helaman 3:10), either along the coast or upriver.
    From all this, we can imagine a very ingenious artisan capable of high level laborious achievement in the Nephite shipbuilding business. It can also be understood that others had been building boats and ships before him, perhaps for a very lengthy time before him, but these were much smaller and far less capable of ocean sailing. Hence, Mormon described him as one who could build “exceedingly large” ships, meaning much larger than what had been usual for his day.
    In addition, he was also likely a promoter of emigration, and built a business around providing the means (ships) that could be used both profitably and successfully in transporting large groups of emigrants to long distances. After all, it took a full year for the first of these large ships to take its human cargo to a distant land, for it was the next year after sailing that the ship returned to the shipyard (Alma 63:7b). He certainly did not go anywhere in his ships, at least as recorded, for he was in his shipyard building other ships while the first sailed and returned a year later (Alma 63:7a).

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