The biblical story of Noah’s Ark tells the tale of God’s decision to return Earth to its pre-creation state by flooding it completely with rain. However, God spared a man named Noah, instructing him to build an ark so that he, his family, and one pair of each animal might survive. While some believe that the story of Noah’s Ark is nothing more than a myth and a warning about God’s wrath, one team set out to find out if the story might be based in fact and whether the ark could have actually existed. Keep reading to see what they discovered!
Even Some Scientists Believe It’s More Than Just A Story
Like many biblical stories, the tale of Noah’s Ark was believed by many to be historical fact until the end of the 1700s.
The creation story told in the Bible has been mostly dismissed as a factual explanation for how the Earth came into existence. Despite this, some skeptical scientists have come to believe that Noah’s Ark may not have been totally made up, but that the ark may have actually existed in one form or another.
The Legend Of Mount Ararat
According to the biblical account of the flood, after the rainfall ceased and the water began receding, Noah supposedly landed his ark at the “mountains of Ararat,” sending out a raven and a dove to see if the water had gone down.
Once he was sure, Noah opened the doors of the ark and released the animals inside to live again on the new world. Knowing the location of Mount Ararat, an expedition team set out in 2009 to see if there were any archaeological traces.
Mount Ararat Is An Honored Location
Mount Ararat is one of the highest peaks in Turkey and is located in the east, near its border with Iran and Armenia. The mountain is considered to a sacred location, and it’s part of the Turkish national symbol, as well as being depicted on the coat of arms of Armenia.
Its peak lies at 16,854 feet, with the top being covered in snow year-round. The mountain’s first recorded exploration took place as early as 1829.
Connection To Marco Polo
The famed explorer Marco Polo claimed in his book, The Adventures of Marco Polo, that he explored the “mythical” peak of Ararat. However, it wasn’t until the 19th century when modern explorers began performing their own research.
In 1829, Dr. Friedrich Parrot climbed the mountain, further explaining that due to its sacredness to the Armenians, “no human being is allowed to approach it.” However, 50 years later, explorer James Bryce made a discovery that changed everything.
James Bryce Attempted To Summit The Mountain
James Bryce was not only an explorer but also an Oxford Civil Law professor, historian, statesman, and diplomat. He climbed the mountain in 1876, looking for physical proof behind the biblical story of Noah’s Ark.
Bryce may not have reached the peak of the mountain, but he did make it above the tree line where he could see the snow slopes. It was there that he made an unexpected discovery that gave some proof to the original story.
He Found A Wooden Beam
Although Bryce was hopeful that he’d find something related to the ark, he wasn’t necessarily confident that he would discover anything.
However, he was at a loss for words when he found what appeared to be an ancient beam on the slopes of the snowy mountain. This could have been part of the Ark, but unfortunately, it was too large to transport it down the mountain. He returned to England, with news of his discovery turning into a research frenzy.
A Convincing Photograph
While it may have been exciting that James Bryce found the wooden beam on the mountain, this was far from enough evidence to convince experts that it was part of Noah’s Ark. Furthermore, other explorers have claimed to have found more proof, or even the whole boat, but there was still no evidence available.
In 1960, a photo of an area 18 miles of the peak was taken by a man named Ron Wyatt. The photo showed something that looked similar to a boat, and another expedition was on the way.
The story of Noah’s Ark claims that Noah rested the large craft in the mountains of Ararat. Yet, there isn’t just one single peak of Ararat, but a range of mountaintops instead. On top of that, some biblical scholars argue that Ararat was not just the name of the mountain, but the entire region.
At the Durupinar site in eastern Turkey, a large structure can be found 18 miles south of the modern Ararat. What’s even more interesting is that it looks as though it could be an ark. Ron Wyatt set out to prove that it was.
Taking A Closer Look
David Fasold, a former United States Merchant Marine Officer and salvage expert, joined Wyatt in 1985. They were also joined by geophysicist John Baumgardner. Fasold was convinced that the site was the location of the ark and that they would be able to find it using something called a “frequency generator.”
The device’s scan showed that the formation in the earth was around 538 feet, which was similar to the estimated measurements of the biblical ark, which was estimated around 515 feet using ancient Egyptian cubits.
They Discovered What Could Be Anchor Stones
As Fasold and Wyatt scanned the area for any proof of the Ark, they discovered something they weren’t expecting. They found boulders with ancient carvings. According to Fasold, those boulders were drogues, or anchor stones, that would have been used to stabilize large ships during a storm.
Nevertheless, these boulders were found miles away from any body of water, but Fasold remained convinced that they had been on the ark. Yet, many remained unconvinced that the story was anything more than a myth.
Others Had Their Doubts
Although Fasold and Wyatt made a persuasive case, some geologists, archaeologists, geophysicists, and other experts were quick to refute their claims.
Many stated that the “frequency generator” that they used was nothing more than a “sounding rod” with some extra equipment and that the drogue stones were nothing more than local gravestones in the area. The theory regarding the Durupinar site was dismissed.
An Old Idea
The theory of an ancient flood is as old as human culture and exists in many different areas and religions. Utnapishtim in the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh and Manu in the Hindu Satapatha Brahmana both built boats after being warned of a massive flood from the gods.
There are also similar stories I’m the Sumerian Epic of Ziusurda, Plato’s writings, and Chinese and North American Hopi cultures. While the reason for the flooding was usually different, it was agreed upon that the Earth was at some point covered in water.
Gilgamesh Sought Eternal Life
One of the oldest legends of an ancient flood comes from the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh. This is a 4,000-year-old poem inscribed on stone tablets, following the king Gilgamesh and his search for eternal life.
During his life, he encountered men, monsters, and gods, most importantly, Utnapishtim, an old man who claimed to have found the secret to eternal life with his wife. Wishing to learn the same secret, Gilgamesh listened to the tale of Utnapishtim’s life.
Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh that the god Ea had intentions to flood the Earth in order to stop humans from overmultiplying. Ea warned Utnapishtim to build a large boat, and Utnapishtim followed his advice.
On the boat, he brought his family, helpers, and “all the animals of the field.” Supposedly, not long after Utnapishtim had completed his project, the sky opened up and brought on a storm that washed away everything in its path. However, Utnapishtim remained alive.
They Stayed Safe
Even as the storm raged all around them, Utnapishtim and his family remained safe upon the ship they had been warned to build. When the rains had finally stopped, Utnapishtim opened a hatch and released a dove and a raven to see if there was any nearby land, and eventually, he landed his craft on the side of a mountain.
This tale was written on stone tablets, and although the physical tablets had been missing for millennia, the story is well-known across Babylon and other parts of the world.
A Modern Take
While the story of a devastating flood and an ark can be found in cultures all over the world, many have small differences but the premise remains the same.
Not only has this story been told over and over again in ancient times, but in the modern age as well. The story of Noah’s Ark has been made into several movies, including 2014’s Noah, starring Russell Crowe and directed by Darren Aronofsky.
While the tale of the Great Flood has persisted throughout history in different cultures, there are several details that are different in each take, and sometimes even within the same story.
For example, in the biblical passage, Noah is supposedly instructed to bring one pair of each animal on the ark. However, another passage claims that he was to take “seven pairs of every kind of clean animal” and “one pair of every kind of unclean animal,” and “seven pairs of every kind of bird.”
Trekking Up The Mountain
In 2007, a joint Turkish-Hong Kong expedition took place, in which members of Noah’s Ark Ministries International (NAMI) made the trek up Mount Ararat to find the lost ark.
Of course, this wasn’t an easy task by any means, as Ararat’s snowy hillsides and exposed landscape made the climb particularly difficult. The conditions and the weather weren’t the only issues they had to face. Currently, Mount Ararat sits in the heart of a closed military zone.
A Strategic Point
Being both high up and near Turkey’s border with Iran Armenia, and Azerbaijan, Mount Ararat is considered to be of high military importance in regard to strategy.
In order to visit the mountain, even if you’re an expert, you need a special permit to enter the military zones, with many foreigners using a type of “Ararat Visa.” Still, even if you do manage to obtain a special pass, you’re still only permitted to travel certain paths, which could be deadly if you stray from them.
The Weather Was A Major Problem
Once NAMI expedition team obtained their Ararat Visas, they began their journey up the side of the mountain with the help of a local and skilled guide. The team knew that there was a high chance that they were going to experience harsh weather, and that’s exactly what happened.
However, they weren’t going to allow that to stop them. Convinced that they were going to find evidence of the ark, they pressed on toward their goal.
They Finally Found Something
After several miserable days of trekking up the mountain and enduring harsh weather and some militants in the area, the NAMI expedition reached an impressive altitude of 4,000 meters.
At this height, this was also where they made an incredible discovery — a cave. Yet, the cave itself wasn’t the greatest part of the discovery, but what they found inside it. It was at this point the team thought that maybe they had finally found what they were looking for.
They Found A Wooden Structure
The research team couldn’t believe it when they found what appeared to be a wooden structure inside the cave.
One of the experts, Man-Fai Yuen, noted, “The search team and I personally entered a wooden structure high on the mountain. The structure is partitioned into different spaces. We believe that the wooden structure we encountered is the same structure recorded in the historical accounts and the same ancient boat indicated by the locals.”
They Needed Accurate Dating
In order to accurately date the discovery of the wood found in the cave in Mount Ararat, and see if it could possibly be the mythological ark, the NAMI researchers would need to use a special carbon dating process. After processing the wood, they estimated the age of it to be around 4,800 years old.
Now the next step was to determine the origins of the material. In the Bible, it is mentioned that the ark was built from “gopher wood,” although the experts weren’t entirely sure what that meant.
The Secret To Gopher Wood
The term “gopher wood” was used in the Hebrew Bible just once, and it was to describe the construction of Noah’s Ark. Since it hasn’t been mentioned anywhere else in history, it’s impossible to truly know what it is.
Some theories that have emerged are that it’s reeds, another that it’s wood reinforced with tar, and another that it’s just a type of tree. Although their goal isn’t to discover what gopher wood is, if they discovered a new form of wood, it would certainly help their case.
Almost three years after the researchers returned from their expedition, in 2010, the explorers released footage of their experience on Mount Ararat. It’s suspected that this was done in order to show the public before they released any formal publication.
The video documentation of what they saw on the mountain created some major waves. The footage was examined by experts all over the world, and before long, people began seriously doubting them.
Shortly after the NAMI research team released the videos from their time on Mount Ararat, it didn’t take long for some individuals to call the whole thing a hoax.
Some claimed that the ancient wooden beams in the footage were actually sourced from the Black Sea and brought over to the mountain by the guide. Others believed that the wooden structures had been built before the researchers arrived at the cave and began filming.
Confronting The Accusations
The team wasn’t going to just roll over on the issue, so on their website, they stated that they consulted with the Director of Cultural Ministries in Agri Province, Mushin Bulut, about the claims that the wood had been brought from somewhere else.
According to their website, Bulut responded that it would be impossible to bring “such an amount of timber to a strictly monitored area and to bring it up to an altitude of 4,000 meters.”
True Discovery Of The Ark Would Change Everything
Even if NAMI’s findings are real, it would take a massive amount of evidence to convince the majority of the scientific community. Even if some of the claims by the team are verified, there are still countless questions that need answering.
For example, if the ancient story of the flood is based on real events, and only a handful of people and animals on the planet were rescued, an entire study on the biology, geology, and genealogy of the world would need to be reexamined.
One of the major problems with the NAMI findings, when it comes to biological research, is the myth about a boat in one location releasing all of the world’s surviving animals, all while humans were still rather primitive.
Biologists rely on DNA codes to track changes and compare them to fossils, so the discovery of a global wipeout paired with the reemergence of plant and wildlife would require a change in every aspect of biology that we know.
Turning To Geology
Even if scientists were able to explain the biology behind such an occurrence, the geological evidence, if there is any, would also need to be deeply explored.
An apocalyptic flood as described in the Bible and other religions would have left behind significant geological traces, such as receding water lines, that wouldn’t be hard for modern experts to identify. Regardless, there are still plenty who believe that the evidence in support of the flood and the ark are beyond enough to prove its existence.
People Take Multiple Stories As Truth
While there is still little to no actual scientific proof that the story of Noah’s Ark occurred, the question is, how did such a tale find itself embedded into countless cultures around the world?
For many, such a widespread tale, no matter how scientifically inaccurate, is more than enough proof that such a catastrophic event occurred, not even millions of years ago, but mere thousands.
It Isn’t All Myth
Although the biblical tale of an apocalyptic flood that covered the Earth may not be scientifically accurate, devastating ancient floods have occurred before, and there’s evidence of them in Mesopotamia.
Evidence was discovered that there was a massive flood and that some type of vessel was constructed to help save people and animals. The question is whether such a flood could have made its way to Mount Ararat and if the ark remains on the mountainside.
Relying On Faith
Many of those that doubt the accuracy of the mythological flood rely on scientific facts for their reasoning. However, for others, the truth doesn’t need to be based in science.
For many, the story of Noah’s Ark and the flood is a literal description of the past and actually happened, even without any scientific backing. Peoples’ faith in God surpasses scientific evaluation on many occasions, and for some, this takes the place of scientific research.
The Search Didn’t End
While there was a large group of experts that disputed the findings of the NAMI expedition, those in search of the ark haven’t given up on their quest. There are still many people out there that believe the Ark still rests on Mount Ararat and is just waiting to be found.
But what does this mean for future expeditions? Will the next explorers build off of what the NAMI expedition claimed to have found or start fresh?
Plans For Future Expeditions Have Been Stalled
Journeys to the peak of Mount Ararat continue to be planned by various groups including people of faith, scientists, and overall adventurers.
However, there has been an issue. While the NAMI expedition had good intentions, their methods of research went against Turkish authorities, making the already hard-to-obtain Ararat Visa even more difficult to get. Today, even fewer people are allowed on the mountain, which is proving to be difficult for those in search of the ark.
A Major Infraction
According to Turkish authorities, once the NAMI team took samples from the wooden beams at the site in the cave and took them to Hong Kong for testing, this was a major offense.
As in many places, to take archaeological artifacts from one country and bring them to another without permission is not permitted. Fortunately for NAMI, they will not suffer any legal repercussions, but they certainly made it harder for future researchers to obtain Visas.
A Story Told For Generations
For generations, the story of the Great Flood and Noah’s Ark have fascinated the world. Cultures and religions ranging from Christianity to the ancient Sumerians and modern interpretations have told a story that has inspired faith from those that have heard it.
Even skeptics who doubt the reality of such an event are still fascinated by the story and how it managed to find itself at the center of so many different cultures.
The Power Of Storytelling
Although it remains unclear if the evidence collected by the NAMI team will ever be accepted as accurate, one thing remains fascinating, and that’s the power of storytelling. The tale has been told for thousands of years, with various cultures making adjustments to fit their belief system.
Not only is the message of the tale itself important to pay attention to, but it also shows the power of storytelling and how it can prevail for thousands of years.
The Mystery Remains
While NAMI’s expedition may not end up proving that the ark existed, they also didn’t prove that it didn’t. It’s a highly-debated topic, especially in fields such as archaeology, and will most likely remain so until there is a clear answer, and even then there will be arguments.
People will continue to search for the biblical vessel and maybe one day someone will shock the world with proof that there is an ark on Mount Ararat.
More Than Just Research
While the search for the ark is a fascinating study, even more important is what the impact of the story has had both in the past and present. A story retold for thousands of years is still believed today, which is incredibly impressive.
Furthermore, the search for the ark during modern times has not just polarized the scientific community but has also brought nations and belief systems together, something that is rare these days.