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How could Nephi's group make the ocean voyage from Arabia to the New World?
by Jeff Lindsay
I've been asked how Nephi's group could make a ship, how they could possibly carry enough food to survive, and have been told that the ocean currents makes the voyage impossible.)
The text makes it clear that they departed from the east side of the Arabian Peninsula, making their voyage a fairly direct but still difficult route. They did not go around the cape of Africa, as some critics assume. The Book of Mormon description - though brief and succinct - of the journey through the Arabian peninsula is one of many powerful evidences for its authenticity, as it describes places and reasonable routes that Joseph Smith could not possibly have known about. I discuss this in some length on the Web page at "http://www.athenet.net/~jlindsay/BMEvidences.shtml". There is indeed a place (a most unusual place) in the right location on the Arabian coast to correspond with the place "Bountiful" where Lehi and his group camped for quite a while before constructing boats from the abundant trees (really - they are still there, at Wadi Sayq) and before taking significant supplies. There were abundant resources at this place, where they lived for some time. We need not assume that most of their supplies for the ocean voyage had been carried from Jerusalem, which they departed at least 8 years earlier.
Could the boat have been big enough to carry the supplies needed for a journey to the New World? How much space does it take to feed people for several months? My family has an emergency supply of basic foods (wheat, sugar, oil, canned fruits, some water, etc.) designed to be a year's supply for our family of 6. It sure wouldn't fit in a canoe, but I guess that 2 minivans (minus the backseats) could easily hold it and still leave room for my fishing poles. (And Nephi's group may have eaten a lot of seafood instead of relying exclusively on what they carried.)
Making a seaworthy ship is no easy task. Indeed, part of the family rebelled at the idea, but God did reveal the details of how to build and prepare the ships. When it comes to design and engineering, He's mighty good! Also, there is evidence now of ancient peoples who made transoceanic voyages (not just the Vikings, but Phoenicians and others in the Middle East). Barry Fells' works are well known, but not always trustworthy: there are much better scholarly publications on the topic. Such a journey was possible.
As for ocean currents, monsoon season provides ideal wind patterns to carry ships from the site Bountiful (Wadi Sayq, apparently, on the coast of modern Oman) east to Indonesia. (There may have been stops along the way to get more supplies and water.) From there to the New World (Central America in particular), the currents normally go the wrong way. However, the regular El Niņo effect changes the currents, resulting in a means that could easily have taken Nephi's ship the Central America. Departing during monsoon season and then catching the El Niņo effect is a matter of timing - an area where the Lord displays wonderful talent. The trip as described is far from a "no-brainer," but it is entirely possible and plausible.
(See The Book of Mormon home page; Response to Criticism home page; Accusatory Questions home page)
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