The Search for Noah's Ark

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The search for Noah's Ark

Mount Ararat (39�42'N, 44�17'E), satellite image - a stratovolcano, 5,137meters (16,854ft) above sea level, prominence 3,611 meters, believed to have erupted within the last 10,000 years. The main peak is at the centre of the image

From Eusebius' time to the modern day, the physical Noah's Ark has held a fascination for Christians-although not for Jews and Muslims, who seem to have felt far less impelled to seek out the remains. In the 4th century Faustus of Byzantium was apparently the first to use the name 'Ararat' to refer to a specific mountain, rather than a region, where the Ark could be seen, and told how an angel had brought a holy relic from the vessel to a pious bishop who had been unable to complete the ascent.[30]The Byzantine emperor Heraclius is said to have made the trip in the 7th century, but less well-connected pilgrims had to brave uninhabited wastes, rugged terrain, snowfields, glaciers, blizzards, and, in the more hospitable areas, brigands, wars, and ever-suspicious Ottoman officials. Not until the 19th century was the region settled enough, and Westerners welcome enough, for exploration by well-heeled Ark-seekers to begin in earnest. In 1829 Dr. Freidrich Parrott, who had made an ascent of Greater Ararat, wrote in his Journey to Ararat that 'all the Armenians are firmly persuaded that Noah's Ark remains to this very day on the top of Ararat, and that, in order to preservation [sic], no human being is allowed to approach it.'[31]In 1876 James Bryce, historian, statesman, diplomat, explorer, and Professor of Civil Law at Oxford, climbed above the tree line and found a slab of hand-hewn timber, four feet long and five inches thick, which he identified as being from the Ark.[32]In 1883 the British Prophetic Messenger and others reported that Turkish commissioners investigating avalanches had seen the Ark.[33]Activity fell off in the 20th century. In the Cold War Ararat found itself on the highly sensitive Turkish/Soviet border and in the midst of Kurdish separatist activities, so that explorers were likely to find themselves in extremely hazardous situations. Former astronaut James Irwin led two expeditions to Ararat in the 1980s, was kidnapped once, and like others found no tangible evidence of the Ark. 'I've done all I possibly can,' he said, 'but the Ark continues to elude us.'[34]

By the beginning of the 21st century two main candidates for exploration had emerged: the so-called Ararat anomaly near the main summit of Ararat (an 'anomaly' in that it shows on aerial and satellite images as a dark blemish on the snow and ice of the peak), and the separate site at Durupinar near Dogubayazit, 18 miles south of the Greater Ararat summit. The Durupinar site was heavily promoted by adventurer and former nurse-anaesthetist Ron Wyatt in the 1980s and 1990s, and consists of a large boat-shaped formation jutting out of the earth and rock. It has the advantage over the Great Ararat site of being approachable-while hardly a major tourist attraction, it receives a steady stream of visitors, and the local authorities have renamed a nearby mountain 'Mount Cudi,' making it one of at least five Mount Judis in the Middle East. Geologists have identified the Durupinar site as a natural formation,[35]but Wyatt's Ark Discovery Institute continues to champion its claims.[36]

In 2004 Honolulu-based businessman Daniel McGivern announced he would finance a $900,000 expedition to the peak of Greater Ararat in July that year to investigate the 'Ararat anomaly'-he had previously paid for commercial satellite images of the site.[37]After much initial fanfare he was refused permission by the Turkish authorities, as the summit is inside a restricted military zone. The expedition was subsequently labelled a 'stunt' by National Geographic News, which pointed out that the expedition leader, a Turkish academic named Ahmet Ali Arslan, had previously been accused of faking photographs of the Ark.

  • [30] Faustus of Byzantium
  • [31] Dr Freidrich Parrott
  • [32] James Bryce
  • [33] British Prophetic Messenger and the Turkish Commissioners
  • [34] James Irwin, from Arlington National Cemetery website
  • [35] Durupinar
  • [36] Arkdiscovery.com
  • [37] McGivern expedition annnounced
  • [38] McGivern expedition cancelled
  • Noah's Ark hoaxes and misconceptions

    A number of hoaxes and misconceptions have attended the search for the physical remains of Noah's ark. (this article addresses only modern-era incidents, and not the earlier, pre-modern Christian, Jewish and Islamic traditions which grew up around the Ark story).

    • According to a story widely disseminated on the Internet, Nicholas II of Russia sent an expedition to Mount Ararat in 1917-1918 to investigate the Ark. The fact that Nicholas abdicated during the February Revolution at the beginning of March 1917 (Gregorian calendar) makes the whole story unlikely. A few sources, apparently noticing this, put the date of the expedition at 1916, ('the Russian imperial air force ... is supposed to have sent 150 men up Mount Ararat in 1916 to explore a large object said to be as long as a city block,' reads one), but even in 1916 the Russians were engaged in an increasingly desperate struggle with Germany on the Eastern Front, and it is unlikely that men and aircraft could have been spared for the adventure. No records of such an expedition have ever come to light. [1]
    • On April 1, 1933, the Koelnische Illustrierte Zeitung of Cologne published a story about an expedition sponsored by a Mrs. Putrid Lousey and including a 'Prof. Mud' from 'the Royal Yalevard University' in Massachusetts, the other 'Prof. Stoneass'. The story was accompanied by pictures including what looked like a giant boat on a mountainside, and also flintlock weapons, presumably for the explorers' protection in the wilderness, even though they could be seen to lack the necessary flints. On April 8 the paper admitted the article had been an April Fools Day hoax. Nevertheless, a refugee publication called Rubez adapted and published the story. In turn, a White Russian refugee publication called Mech Gedeona ('Sword of Gideon'), ran a Russian-language version. The names became garbled in transliteration, but the same pictures were reprinted each time. In 1972 the Mech Gedeona article came into the hands of Charles Willis of Fresno, California, who provided it to two Ark-search enthusiasts, Eryl Cummings and his wife. John Bradley, another Ark searcher, quickly provided them with the original German text, but even after this the Cummingses pursued for nearly four more months the possibility that the joke names were mistranscriptions into German rather than a hoax.[2] (The idea that the specific association of the Ark with Mount Ararat - rather than the more general 'mountains of Ararat' mentioned in Genesis - began with the Cologne paper's hoax, is widely disseminated on the Web, but is a misconception - the idea is far older, as demonstrated by the many medieval paintings of the subject).
    • In 1955 French explorer Fernand Navarra reportedly found a 5-foot wooden beam on Mount Ararat some 40 feet under the Parrot Glacier on the northwest slope and well above the treeline. The Forestry Institute of Research and Experiments of the Ministry of Agriculture in Spain certified the wood to be about 5,000 years old. Navarra's guide later claimed the French explorer bought the beam from a nearby village and carried it up the mountain.[3]
    • In 1977 a pseudo-documentary (a work of fiction claiming to be a documentary) called 'In Search of Noah's Ark' which was played on numerous television stations, and continues to be taken seriously by many in the Ark-search community.
    • In 1993 CBS aired a special entitled 'The Incredible Discovery of Noah's Ark,' by George Jammal, who showed what he called sacred wood from the ark. Jammal's story was a deliberate hoax, and he later revealed that his 'sacred wood' was wood taken from railroad tracks in Long Beach, California, and hardened by cooking in an oven. [4]

    Notes and references

    1. Ancient High Technology - Evidence of Noah's Flood?
    2. April's Fools
    3. ibid.
    4. George Jammal, Hoaxing The Hoaxers: or, The Incredible (phony) Discovery of Noah's Ark
    5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah%27s_Ark
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