Friday, January 24, 2020

John L. Sorenson’s Winds and Currents – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding Sorenson’s views on this matter in his work “Winds and Currents: A Look at Nephi's Ocean Crossing,“ which we have been asked to evaluate, are far from the scriptural description and the scientific facts.
• Sorenson: “Sailing there [Indian Ocean] has always depended upon the monsoons. The word monsoon is from the Arabic mawsim, which literally means “the date for sailing from one port in order to reach another.”
The advancing monsoon clouds and showers in Aralvaimozhy, near Nagercoil, India
Response: First of all, the Arabic موسم (mawsim), translates to “season,” and in the nine uses shown in the Arabic dictionary, the word is always translated to “season.” As an example: akhr mawsim (last season); mawsim alhisad (harvest season); mawsim al’aeyad (holiday season); mawsim alnumui (growth season), etc. In various uses, the word is translated as season or time; it also carries the idea of fair, date, deadline, harvest, etc. The word mawsim is also found in Classical Persian, Dari, Iranian Persian, Tehrani and Tajik—all meaning the same as above.
    Words rarely literally mean an entire sentence—that is usually the idiom side of the word, and may well be true in this case. The word monsoon is actually from the In the Arabic meaning, “Mawsim” describes the characteristic of monsoons of large scale reversals of the prevailing winds, giving two very distinct and separate seasons.
    Secondly, the unknown writer, Periplus of the Erythraean Sea of the 1st century A.D. and Pliny the Elder both credit Greek navigator Hippalus with discovering the direct route from the Red Sea to India over the Indian Ocean by following the direction of the winds called monsoon. Originally named Hippalus after him, the term originally referred to wind reversals in the Arabian Sea, though now it has come to mean the whole range of phenomena associated with annual weather cycles in Tropical and sub-tropical Asia, Australia and Africa.
    This tracking of the monsoons in ancient times made maritime trade easier and also it aided in tracking the great weather system that dominates life on the subcontinent (of India), where it is one of the oldest and most anticipated weather phenomena and an economically important pattern every year from June through September.
    Yet it is only partly understood and notoriously difficult to predict. Several theories have been proposed to explain the origin, process, strength, variability, distribution, and general vagaries of the monsoon, but understanding and predictability are still evolving.
• Sorenson: “the end of March or beginning of April was the best time to head east from the south Arabian coast; if delayed too long after that, a ship would encounter huge, dangerous swells as it neared the west coast of India.
The winds and currents flow from the southwest to the northeast during the Summer Monsoon, which begins in October and runs to through March—any ship leaving southern Arabia at this time, as the run arrow shows, would be forced back up and into the Indian west coast and could not have sailed “driven forth before the wind” around India or toward Indonesia. Even if they could manage to get around India and Sri Lanka, they would be driven up into the northern portion of the Bay of Bengal and into the land

Response: The winds in March and April are in between the Monsoon periods, i.e., from October to March the winds blow from then southwest toward the northeast, slamming into the land and causing havoc all across the sub-continent with storms unrelentant rains and winds—any sailing at that time would drive ships into the land unless they were small coastal craft hugging the coast, but even then sailing in those winds and currents would drive vessels up into the land. On the other hand, sailing toward the east when the monsoon winds and currents flow from the northeast out into the sea to the southwest, would simply take the ship and push it out into the Sea of Arabia and down toward the Indian Ocean.
    From April to September, the winds blow from the northeast toward the southwest and pick up the south flowing Somali Current heading down toward Madagascar.
The winds and currents flow from the northeast to the southwest during the Winter Monsoon, which begins in April and runs through September—any ship leaving southern Arabia at this time, as the red arrow shows, would be driven toward the southwest into the Sea of Arabia and toward the Indian Ocean. If they tried to turn east (maroon arrow), they would have been driven out into the Sea of Arabia and still turned southwest down into the Indian Ocean

• Sorenson: According to Tibbetts, the end of March or beginning of April was the best time to head east”
Response: Gerald Randall Tibbetts, Navigation in the Indian Ocean before the Portuguese, was written in 2002 and dealt with sailing ships and other ships under diesel engine power. Almost any engine can overcome winds and currents. However, Nephi’s ship was driven forth before the wind, meaning it was pushed forward, not drawn forward, i.e., it did not tack or close haul—it sailed with the wind behind it, and as such, no time of the year would overcome the winds and currents of the Sea of Arabia to head into the wind by going east.
• Sorenson: The route would have gone essentially straight east at about fifteen degrees north latitude to the Indian coast, then south around Ceylon in time for the southwest monsoon, first felt in May in the Bay of Bengal.”
Sorenson’s Proposed Route for Lehi. Note it is against the winds and currents until he gets beyond Sri Lanka, then he would be driven into the Bay of Bengal and toward the far northern shore—not toward Indonesia

Response: 15º north latitude would be leaving Yemen, about 2 degrees to the south of Salalah, which means Nephi’s ship leaving Khor Rori would have to drop 2 degrees southeastward in latitude against the winds driving him northeastward, and with the monsoon winds driving toward the Western Ghats along the west coast of India, the chance of then turning toward the south, against these currents and winds to sail around the tip of India and Sri Lanka, is highly unlikely.
• Sorenson: “Sumatra would have been reached no later than September.”
Response: Reaching Sumatra in Indonesia would have been most unlikely with the ship Nephi describes, “being driven before the wind,” since the entire trip would have been either against the wind (impossible for Nephi’s ship) or been blown toward shore, either on the west coast of India (most likely) or along the coasts of India, Bangledesh, or Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal.
Maroon arrow shows the path the wind would have blown him if Lehi managed to reach the Bay of Bengal. The idea that he could have sailed across the Indian Ocean and into the Andaman Sea to reach Sumatra and the Strait between there and Malaysia is simply unrealistic

After all, when Nephi tells us twice he was “driven forth before the wind,” he is telling us that his ship was being blown from following winds and “pushed forward.” But if the wind is pushing back from the front, his ship is not going to make headway—he was subject to the wind and sea currents!
• Sorenson: “The great storm noted in 1 Nephi 18:13-14 could have been either a cyclonic storm or a typhoon, which are violent in the Bay of Bengal.”
Response: There are violent storms all over the Sea of Arabia, and North Indian Ocean, on both sides of the Indian Peninsula, as well as occasional storms directly in the path around Madagascar in the southern Indian Ocean that Lehi would have sailed to reach the Southern Ocean. In fact, the MODIS image showed that thunderstorms were mostly west of the low-level center of circulation and bands of thunderstorms were wrapping into the center—microwave images also show that wind shear pushes the bulk of the deep convection and strong thunderstorms west of the defined low-level center, right in Lehi’s path, and sub-tropical ridges or elongated areas of high pressure located to the east-southeast of the tropical storm area continually steering the storms to the southwest. Thereafter a mid-latitude trough (elongated area) of low pressure will steer it southward
White circle shows where almost all of the tropical storms in the Bay of Bengal fall—outside of Sorenson’s proposed (dotted Blue line) course for Lehi from Sri Lanka to Sumatra

It is interesting that, while the storms in the Bay of Bengal are within the Basin itself, and toward the north, closer to northern India, Bengladesh, and Myanmar, Sorenson claims Lehi’s route would have been straight across the Indian Ocean to Sumatra (actually either bypassing the Bay of Bengal or just touching on the southern extreme, where few storms are recorded).
(See the next post, “John L. Sorenson’s Winds and Currents – Part III,” for more reasons why Sorenson’s views on this matter in his work “Winds and Currents: A Look at Nephi's Ocean Crossing“, which we have been asked to evaluate, are far from the scriptural description and the scientific facts)

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