|Vol. VII, No. 6
Elul 5609, Sept. 1849
In compliance with the orders he had received, Lieut. Lynch provided himself with two metallic boats, one of copper, the other of galvanized iron, which he had prepared whilst the U.S. store-ship Supply, to the command of which he had been appointed, was getting ready at the Brooklyn navy-yard. He had assigned to him, as his crew for the voyage of discovery, one lieutenant, one passed midshipman, a naturalist, and ten seamen as the crew for the boats; and there were provided two low trucks, to carry the boats entire, by means of beasts of burden, from the Mediterranean to the sea of Galilee, (the sea of Kinnerith of the Bible,) in case they should not well be able to take them apart, they having been built in sections. Thus fitted for his voyage, he sailed from New York on Friday, November 26th, 1847, and arrived at Smyrna on Wednesday, February 16th, 1848. Thence he repaired to Constantinople, where he obtained a firman (permit) from the Turkish government to pursue his investigations, directed to the governors of Saida and Jerusalem; which done, he sailed from Smyrna, on Friday, March 10th, and on the 28th he arrived off the village of Haifa, under Mount Carmel, where he landed, and almost was drowned in the surf, but was rescued by some Arab fishermen, who are represented as expert swimmers. The day following, the boats and effects were landed from the ship, and they encamped for the first time on the soil of Palestine, and raised the American flag, the first occasion, Mr. Lynch thinks, that it ever floated in the Holy Land, except before the consular precincts.
The day following, the horses expected to draw the boats arrived, but were found useless; wherefore they had to wait to procure camels, which answered the purpose quite well. The ship having sailed on her voyage, under the second in command, Lieut. Pennock, the small party of adventurers, reinforced, first at Constantinople and then at Beirut, by two volunteers, the latter a physician, finally started, after the usual vexations and delays in procuring what they needed, on Tuesday, April 4th, and arrived on the 6th at Tiberias, (Tebariah,) situated on the lake of Galilee; and having launched the boats on the 8th, they started fairly on Monday, the 10th, and entered the Jordan at 3½ P.M., and arrived at its termination on the 18th, where it empties itself in the Dead Sea, which they then circumnavigated, and finally left it, as stated already, on the 10th of May.
The southern part is about 10 miles in length, and from 4 to 9 in breadth, and the deepest sounding gives but 2½ fathoms; and at the southern extremity they found but half a foot water, in fact too little to push the boats through; and Lieut. Dale, in wading ashore, “sunk first through a layer of slimy mud a foot deep, then through a crust of salt, and then another foot of mud, before reaching firm bottom. The beach was so hot as to blister his feet. From the water’s edge he made his way with difficulty for more than a hundred yards over black mud, coated with salt and bitumen.”
Let the reader refer to Gen. xiv. 10, and he will find the same feature (the slime-pits) described as already existing in that vicinity in the time of Abraham. Near the southern extremity, in the mountain of Usdum, (Sodom,) they discovered also a pillar of salt, capped with carbonate of lime. This column, described as cylindrical in front and pyramidal behind, is about forty feet high, and rests on a kind of oval pedestal, from forty to sixty feet above the level of the sea. We hardly think it necessary for the truth of Scripture to identity this with the pillar of salt into which Lot’s wife was changed, though there can be no good reason to assert that this transformation did not become the nucleus of this singular natural product. Upon the whole, we are not partial to the attempt at identifying every spot or ruin in Palestine, a habit more analogous to superstition and credulity than to a candid and truthful spirit of inquiry. We yield, for our part, to no man in the belief in Scripture; but we rather <<320>>doubt the correctness of the various localities pointed out as the places where the glorious and fearful events there recorded took place; and herein we think Lieut. L. and others have failed, in lending credence to all the monkish tales and legends with which every nook and corner of Palestine are filled. We refer not to the pillar in question, for this may be as stated, or not, without influence on the Bible history; but to many pretended scenes of miracles, the identification of which is next to impossible, even assuming that the events themselves did occur.
We deem it altogether out of our power to go into details about the book at the present moment. There is, however, an immense deal of interesting matter to repay richly a careful perusal. To be sure, there is too much attempt at fine writing, also an occasional want of precise knowledge of the subjects treated,—for instance, the mistaking of the Passover evening service at the Synagogue in Tiberias for the reading of the Lamentations of Jeremiah at the fast of Ab, which could easily have been stated correctly if Lieut. L. had asked any Israelite concerning our ceremonies since his return, if even he could not obtain the information in Palestine. So also, there is occasionally a want of correctness in his style, and a defective arrangement of his sentences, and an awkward arranging of his subjects; but we can readily forgive these faults in a person whose profession is not one of a public writer; and we owe him many thanks, if for nothing else, for having given us the correct outlines of a principal feature in the land of our fathers, and corrected many misapprehensions regarding its topography. At a future day we may return to the subject; at present we are not able to give even a single specimen of the book, for want of space.