for Noah's Ark
ark hunters believe somewhere in the mountains of Turkey,
entombed in the ice of a glacier, is the most famous
ship of all time.(Copyright Lee Krystek,
So God said to Noah, "I am going to put
an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence
because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and
the earth. So make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make rooms
in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. This is how you
are to build it: The ark is to be 300 cubits long, 50 cubits
wide and 30 cubits high. Make a roof for it and finish the ark
to within one cubit of the top. Put a door in the side of the
ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. I am going to bring
floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens,
every creature that has breath of life in it..." Genesis
It was in 1959 that a pilot on a NATO-mapping
mission first photographed something strange on a foothill 15
miles south of Mt. Ararat. When Captain Ilhan Durupinar of the
Turkish Air Force examined the photographs using a stereoscopic
technique the object looked like it was shaped like a ship.
An examination by a photogrammetry expert, Dr. Arthur Brandenberger
of Ohio State, seemed to confirm that the object was foreign
to the area. But what was a ship doing in the high mountains
of eastern Turkey?
Given the location, some speculated that the structure
might have been the remains of Noah's Ark from the biblical
story. Pictures appeared in the September 5th, 1960 edition
of LIFE Magazine with the caption "Noah's Ark?" They
showed a boat-like structure with a pointed prowl and rear,
roughly about the same site as the Ark described in the Bible.
A group called Archaeological Research Foundation sent an expedition
to the location to take a closer look. After examining the object,
the group concluded that it was a geological freak caused by
clay being upthrust through a lava field. The expedition found
no artifacts or petrified wood.
The observation by the Turkish pilot wasn't the
first sighting of the ark since the days of Genesis. Reports
about it have cropped up in various accounts by travelers and
historians for thousands of years. Josephus, the first-century
Jewish historian, mentions it several times in his works, but
not as an eyewitness. He quotes Berosus, a Chaldaean, who wrote
around 275 BC that "It is said, moreover, that a portion
of the vessel still survives in Armenia on the mountain of the
Cordyaens, and that persons carry off pieces of the bitumen,
which they use as talismans."
Epiphanius, the Bishop of Salamis, wrote in the
4th century that remains of the ark could still be seen in the
"mountains of the Gordians," noting that if visitors
look closely enough they can still find the altar Noah erected
to worship God upon his return to dry land. A traveler of the
12th century, Benjamin of Tudela, said that Omar Ben al-Khatab
removed the remains from the summit of Ararat and used the material
to construct a mosque.
Despite these accounts, the location of the final
berth of Noah's ark has been in dispute. The Bible notes that
the ark "came to rest upon the mountains of Ararat."
While this has led many modern searchers to look at Mt. Ararat
itself, the name was not actually associated with the mountain
until the 11th century. In earlier times Ararat was an ancient
name for Armenia, and the passage from the Bible seems to imply
that it could have grounded on any of the mountains in that
region. The Koran, which also carries a version of the story,
indicates the final resting place was Mount Judi.
The first modern explorer who claimed to have
found the ark was James Bryce of Oxford University. Bryce climbed
Mount Ararat in 1876. Near the peak he discovered a four-foot
long stick and decided, for no apparently logical reason, it
must be part of the ark. In 1892 Archdeacon John Joseph Nouri
declared he had found the ark and had even entered it. After
measuring it, he found it to be 300 cubits long, just as the
Bible had said.
Expeditions to find the ark continued through
the early years of the 20th century. While a few claimed some
success, most, like the Archaeological Research Foundation's
trip, found nothing or purely natural phenomenon. Exploration
on Mt. Ararat itself was often impossible due to political unrest
space shuttle photo of the Ararat Mountain Area. (NASA)
In 1984 a man named Ron Wyatt convinced Jim Irwin
(a former astronaut that had walked on the moon) and several
others to go back to the site discovered in 1959. This new expedition
discounted the findings of the 1960 expedition and declared
that the formation was indeed Noah's ark. Wyatt made a number
of visits to the site and also found some eleven large, flat
stones with holes cut through them. Wyatt believed the stones,
which weighed from 4 to 10 tons, to be anchor drogues that might
have been attached to the ark via ropes running through the
holes. The stones are over ten miles from the "ark"
formation, leading Wyatt to conjecture that Noah may have cut
them loose when he knew he was near a landfall.
Wyatt also brought with him David Fasold, another
explorer interested in finding the remains of the ark. Together
they probed the formation with metal detectors and ground radar.
The most promising things they found were material the looked
like petrified wood, and fragments of something that looked
like a bracket which the metal detector indicated was metallic,
perhaps iron. The results of the ground radar test suggested
the object had an internal structure that might be interpreted
On close inspection the "wood" seemed
to lack growth rings, but some biblical experts point out that
the "gopher wood" referred to in the bible has no
good translation and gopher wood might be bundles of reed coated
with some sticky substance, like pitch, that would hold them
together. Fasold believes the ark may have been an overly-large
proto-Sumerian-type craft of bundled reeds. This might make
sense since it is difficult to build a sea-worthy wooden ship
over 300 feet in length.
Initial tests on the "bracket" seemed
to suggest it was iron, but Fasold became suspicious when the
Turkish government, which had initially embraced the discovery,
seemed reluctant to excavate the site. Fasold had the object
re-tested. The second tests conducted by Gene Collins of the
Department of Geological Sciences indicated that the "bracket"
was a natural formation, with iron deposits. Tests on the samples
of the "drogue anchors" suggest that they are rock
local to the area, and not from Mesopotamia, where Noah was
thought to have built the ark and would have quarried any anchors..
The actual "ship" formation itself Collins
believes is a natural outcropping shaped to pointed ends by
weathering, erosion and the effects of landslides moving around
it. Fasold, who no longer believes the structure is the ark,
hypothesizes that the outcropping maybe what the ancient travelers
thought was the ark. Even Wyatt suggests that there are signs
of an ancient platform that may have been constructed to allow
tourists to view the "ark." If this is true, it makes
the outcropping itself of some archaeological interest, but
for different reasons.
If Wyatt's object is not the ark itself, where
is it? Some ark hunters think it is up at the top of Ararat,
perhaps embedded in a glacier. Photographs taken in 1949 and
just recently released by the U.S. government show a strange
anomaly near the 15,500 foot level. There are several stories
told by local people who claim they have seen the ark on Ararat
and even walked on its deck. Entombed, it only makes an appearance
occasionally in warm weather when the ice melts. As attractive
as this scenario is, the mechanics of a glacier seem to make
this unlikely. As it flows down the mountain over thousands
of years, any object caught in it would be torn to shreds leaving
only tiny pieces. If that is the case, the ark is probably scattered
across the base of the mountain never to be recovered.
Dr. Robert Ballard, who became famous as the discoverer
of the wreck of the Titanic, has another theory about
the ark. Through the end of the last ice age 12,000 years ago,
sea levels sank more and more as water was frozen into the world's
polar ice packs. The Black Sea, just east of Turkey, was cut
off from the Mediterranean Sea by a set of mountains. As the
world warmed and the ice packs melted about 7,500 years ago
the ocean rose but the Black Sea, still protected from the the
Mediterranean by a natural dam, stayed at its old level. The
difference eventually reached 500 feet. Then something (perhaps
a minor earthquake or a huge rainstorm) caused the dam to collapse.
The result was a waterfall 200 times as powerful as Niagara
that could be heard 300 miles away. The Black Sea expanded along
some of its shallow shorelines at the rate of a mile a day,
undoubtedly covering seaside villages in less than a week..
photo taken in 1949 showing an anomoly near the top
While this flood would have not covered the world,
it certainly would have been cataclysmic to anyone in the local
area. Ballard theorizes that this is the flood referred to in
the Biblical story, as well as other similar flood stories from
By a quirk of nature anything caught in the flood
should be well preserved. The salt water running in from the
sea 7,500 ago would have been heavier than the fresh water already
there. Without deep-water currents that exist in the oceans
to stir the salt water, the depths of the Black Sea have been
devoid of oxygen that is needed to support life. This means
that there were no microbes to cause anything at the bottom
of the sea to deteriorate. Ballard will try to use submarines
to examine the bottom of the 7,500 foot deep sea in hope of
finding perfectly-preserved ships, villages and other artifacts.
He even speculates that the ark, or some other ark-like ships,
might even be down there.
One thing is certain, though, until somebody can
find the remains of a 450-foot long vessel, either at the top
of Ararat, or at the bottom of the Black Sea, or somewhere in
between, there will always be adventurers looking for Noah's
Krystek 2000. All Rights Reserved.