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DeVere Baker

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DeVere Baker, Mormon explorer

DeVere Baker was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who was known as an explorer. He had the goal of sailing ocean currents in order to prove the voyages spoken of in the Book of Mormon were possible.

Baker was born in 1915 and raised in Tremonton, Utah, by devout Mormon parents. Although landlocked and raised conventionally, Baker developed a love for the sea and for ships. He moved to California once World War II commenced. He married and started a family, and he founded a very successful shipyard that did work for the Navy. While serving as bishop of the Petaluma Ward, his ideas took shape for sailing ocean currents. In order to bring his ideas into fruition, great sacrifice was necessary. With the moral support of his family, Baker liquidated most of the family's possessions, and sold theri home. He began building what would be the first of five rafts named in honor of the prophet Lehi. This began an effort that would consume most of his life.

In 1959 Baker wrote a book entitled The Raft Lehi IV: Sixty-nine Days Adrift on the Pacific Ocean. The book frankly and in great detail outlined Baker's successes and failures in pursuing his quest. His failures were many, and often embarrassing, so embarrassing that the press and Mormons in general began to look the other way, rather than report on his adventures.

Lehi III, however, did succeed in floating down the California coast to Los Angeles, bringing some favorable attention and publicity. This brought in some funds to transform Lehi III into Lehi IV.

"The Lehi 4 set sail July 5th, 1958 from Redondo Beach with four crew plus Tangaroa. Despite storms, heavy winds and shark encounters the raft stayed on track, easily demonstrating, as others have done, that one can live at sea off rainwater and fish for long periods. After a total of 69 days of sailing some 2100 miles across the northern Pacific, Baker and his small crew made landfall in Maui in the Hawaiian islands." [1]

This successful trip brought great fanfare. Baker's wife and two daughters were flown to Hawaii to join him. Baker appeared on television, including a series by the BBC on great explorers, and was invited to lecture at various venues. Baker was tall and charismatic, so he was well suited for public appearances. Around this time Thor Hyerdahl’s rafts overshadowed Devere’s success, and sponsors for more ambitious sailings failed to emerge. Ultimately, Baker had planned to imitate Lehi's journey from Arabia to America by following ocean currents.

DeVere Baker passed away in Provo, Utah, in 1990 after a period of ill health.