They Encounter a Massive Storm
When a light wind began blowing from the south, the sailors thought they could make it. So they pulled up anchor and sailed close to the shore of Crete. But the weather changed abruptly, and a wind of typhoon strength (called a “northeaster”) burst across the island and blew us out to sea. The sailors couldn’t turn the ship into the wind, so they gave up and let it run before the gale. We sailed along the sheltered side of a small island named Cauda, where with great difficulty we hoisted aboard the lifeboat being towed behind us. Then the sailors bound ropes around the hull of the ship to strengthen it. They were afraid of being driven across to the sandbars of Syrtis off the African coast, so they lowered the sea anchor to slow the ship and were driven before the wind.
The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the ship, the crew began throwing the cargo overboard. The following day they even took some of the ship’s gear and threw it overboard. The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone. No one had eaten for a long time. Finally, Paul called the crew together and said, “Men, you should have listened to me in the first place and not left Crete. You would have avoided all this damage and loss. But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said. But we will be shipwrecked on an island.”
About midnight on the fourteenth night of the storm, as we were being driven across the Sea of Adria, the sailors sensed land was near. They dropped a weighted line and found that the water was 120 feet deep. But a little later they measured again and found it was only 90 feet deep. At this rate they were afraid we would soon be driven against the rocks along the shore, so they threw out four anchors from the back of the ship and prayed for daylight. Then the sailors tried to abandon the ship; they lowered the lifeboat as though they were going to put out anchors from the front of the ship.
But Paul said to the commanding officer and the soldiers, “You will all die unless the sailors stay aboard.” So the soldiers cut the ropes to the lifeboat and let it drift away. Just as day was dawning, Paul urged everyone to eat. “You have been so worried that you haven’t touched food for two weeks,” he said. “Please eat something now for your own good. For not a hair of your heads will perish.” Then he took some bread, gave thanks to God before them all, and broke off a piece and ate it. Then everyone was encouraged and began to eat— all 276 of us who were on board. After eating, the crew lightened the ship further by throwing the cargo of wheat overboard.Acts 27:13-38
I have gathered the questions related to the course and timing of the ship being blown off course toward the sandbars of Syrtis. One of those questions was my own.
- What is the Sea of Adria? Is it the Mediterranean?
Yes it’s in the Mediterranean. It’s the Adriatic Sea, located between Crete and Sicily.
More to the point is where are the sandbars of Syrtis off the African coast?
How far off course were they blown such that they were afraid of being blown onto the sandbars of Syrtis off the African coast? The map doesn’t seem to do justice to the time they ran with the typhoon. (This was my question). I felt that locating the sandbars of Syrtis would help in giving us the right direction in which they were blown. The Sandbars of Syrtis are found in the Gulf of Sirte, on the Sirte Rise. Many ships in ancient times were wrecked on these sandbars. They were infamous. The sailors on board Paul’s vessel would have known about these sandbars and where they were. This is what they were concerned about!
It is my hunch they drew a lot closer to the sandbars of Sirtis than Page’s map suggests. If you look at the location of Crete and the location of the Gulf of Syrtis on the first map I have given you, you’’ll see the direction is perfectly aligned to account for the course they would have taken if blown by a northeast wind. I suspect then that they would have neared the Gulf of Syrtis, coming close to the eastern horn of the Greater Gulf of Sirte on the second map. They would still have been a couple of hundred miles away. You can get an idea of the scale on the first map of that part of the Mediterranean. The second map I found drew the coast of Africa too close to Sicily and the foot of Italy to be geographically accurate, but gives you an idea of the relationship between the two. You can decide for yourself how far along the line between Crete and the Gulf of Syrtis a northeast typhoon would have blown them. Your guess is as good as mine in that regard.
I doubt they would have made much headway westward if they had run with a wind blowing out of the Northeast. I think they would have got closer to the African coast than a short distance from Cauda (which was just south of Crete).
Verse 27:20 tells us the storm had raged for many days. Surely they would have been blown further south by a typhoon strength Northeaster? Two days and a night had already passed by time Luke tells us it lasted for many more days. Assuming it was still a north-east wind blowing.
I am trying to get my head around the time frame Ian. Something seems wrong with it. The amount of time that has elapsed since Myra. The fact they had not eaten since taking on supplies at Myra, yet they had not eaten for two weeks, and they end up on Malta blown by a wind out of the northeast when they were running with the wind. Would you comment on this please Ian?
Yes simply I think they went a lot further south and therefore took more days to get finally to the location of their shipwreck. That deviation would account better for the timing and the fact that their food had run out some weeks before. It had already taken them a number of weeks to get from Myra to Crete without being able to land and load supplies. Hence their food had long before run out. I think assuming they got closer to the North African coast (Lybia) than Page’s map suggests solves all of our geographic questions around the course the wind would have blown them.
One more question I am still pondering, again one of mine. How on earth did they manage to run ropes under the ship to bind it in the midst of a typhoon? I don’t have any answers on that one at this point. I have been busy this morning locating the sandbars of Syrtis for us. We will move on to the other questions in the next Gem.
If it’s not anchored in God’s Word it’s absurd.Tim Ross
There’s no end to the sad disappointment of making yourself the centre of your life.Ian Vail
The core message of Christianity is not “do something big for God”, but rather the core message is that “God has done something big for you”.Ian Vail
Your best side is your “Jesus side”.Ian Vail
Tell my mistakes to me not others because they’re corrected by me not them.Paul Scanlon