NOAH'S ARK
SIGHTINGS AND EXPEDTIONS

B S

(Investigator 55, 1997 July) 
 
 

MOUNTAINS OF ARARAT

Between 1856 to 1974 an estimated 200 people from 23 countries claimed they saw Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat. (Balsiger & Sellier 1974 p.203)

From 1961 to 1976 at least 37 expeditions went up the mountain. (Wood 1976)

The phrase "Mountains of Ararat" (Genesis 8:4) is explained by some commentators to refer to two summits of Mount Ararat. There is Big Ararat (16,945 feet; 5,165 metres) and Little Ararat (12,800 feet; 3,900 metres). The phrase "Mount Ararat" without qualification usually refers to the higher summit.

Others explain "Mountains of Ararat" in Genesis as referring to mountain ranges extending hundreds of kilometres but including Mount Ararat itself.

Several quotes later in this article relate "Ararat" to Armenia! A possible reason for this is that since Hebrew writing lacked vowels the r r t translated Ararat might rather refer to Urartu. This was a kingdom extending from Lake Van in eastern Turkey northwards and included Armenia. If Urartu rather than Ararat is correct then no individual mountain where Noah's Ark berthed is identified in the Bible.

Mount Ararat is covered by glaciers. The weather is often clear in the early mornings. By midday fog and clouds and blizzards often cover the summit while lower down are frequent thunder storms.

Little Ararat is sometimes ice-free in summer. Big Ararat has permanent ice, 200 feet thick, covering 22 square miles and down to 13,500 feet. Twelve glaciers flow downwards.

High winds and moving glaciers regularly send boulders rolling down. Deep crevasses in the ice add to the danger. So do blinding snow storms, lightning, poisonous snakes, bears, wild dogs, loose rocks, snow avalanches, rock avalanches, thin atmosphere and occasional earthquakes. The Ahora Gulch on Ararat's north east side has 8,000-foot cliffs. Some would-be climbers died in the attempt – Christopher Trease in 1965 and two others in 1967 for example.

Mount Ararat is a volcano. An earthquake in June 1840 destroyed the 8-century old St. Jacob Monastery at Ahora (7,000 ft level) and the village of Ahora (or Arguri) on the north west slope and reportedly killed 2,000 people. Numerous relics from Noah's Ark were said to be stored in the Monastery but the site remains buried and unexcavated.

Noah is mentioned a dozen times in the Bible after Genesis. (Isaiah 54:9; Matthew 24:37-39; 1 Peter 3:20-21)
 
 

THE FLOOD AND "ARKEOLOGY"


The most dedicated seeker of Noah's Ark was probably Eryl Cummings (b. 1905) a realtor in New Mexico. He traced and interviewed modern-day people who claimed they saw the Ark, went up Ararat 16 times and has advised other would-be "Arkeologists".

In 1975 several Arkeologists from France and Germany were arrested for climbing Ararat without a permit. An American group were jailed for the fifth time in five years for the same reason. Said Cummins regarding this:

I told them not to go because it was October, they would run into snow, and they didn't have a permit. It took them six days to cover five miles in snow up to their knees and sometimes their hips. One of their crew went stark crazy and had to be put in an asylum. When they got off the mountain, they were arrested, and it took high officials of the United States and Turkish governments to get them out of jail.
(Wood 1976 p.18)


About 1700 BC the Creation Tablets made during the reign of King Hammurabi of Babylon included the Epic of Gilgamesh. A translation was released in the 1960s. Three of the tablets relate a story of a great flood. It has some similarities to the Bible story.

In ancient times pilgrims supposedly visited Noah's Ark. Berossus, a Babylonian high priest wrote a history of Babylon and Chaldea about 260 BC. The history included the story of Ziusudra who survived a great flood in a boat. Berossus claimed the boat still existed and that people scraped pitch off it.

John Chrysostom (347-407 AD), Archbishop of Constantinople, said in a sermon probably in 390 AD:
 

Let us therefore ask them: Have you heard of the Flood – of that universal destruction? That was not just a threat, was it? Did it not really come to pass – was not this mighty work carried out? Do not the mountains of Armenia testify to it, where the Ark rested? And are not the remains of the Ark preserved there to this day for our admonition?


Isidore of Seville (560-636), Spanish prelate and Church Father, wrote a vast encyclopedia called Etymologiae. In a passage titled On Mountains he wrote:

Ararat is a mountain in Armenia where the historians testify that the Ark came to rest after the Flood. So even to this day wood remains of it are to be seen there.


Jehan Haithon, a 13th century Armenian prince who became a monk in France, wrote:

In Armenia there is a very high mountain…and its name is Ararat. On that mountain Noah's Ark landed after the Flood…at the summit a great black object is always visible, which is said to be the Ark of Noah.
 

EXPEDITIONS, DISCOVERIES AND CLAIMS


A full list of ascents of Mount Ararat covering 1829 to 1910 occurs in The Quest for Noah's Ark (1972) by John Montgomery.

Below is a partial list of climbs, sightings and noteworthy claims from the 14th century to the 1990s:
 

1366. In the book The Voyage and Travels of Sir John Mandeville, Knight about travels in Turkey, Persia, Syria, Arabia and North Africa – but largely based on other writings – the writer claimed that a piece of Noah's Ark was preserved in a monastery at the base of Mount Ararat.

1670. Dutch adventurer Jans Janzoon Struys went to Ararat and transcribed the testimony of a monk who claimed to have been inside the Ark.

1829. Explorer/scholar Dr. J J Friedrich W Parrot (1791-1841), a university professor in Russia, reached the summit of Ararat. Monks at the monastery showed him wood said to be from Noah's Ark.

1835. Karl Behrens reached the summit but made no claim about seeing the Ark.

1845. Herman von Abich, a Russian geologist, reached the summit.

1846. H Danby Seymour reached the summit.

1850. Col. Khodzko of Russia led a 60-man expedition and reached the summit.

1856. Major Robert Stuart (of England) reached the summit.

1856. An Armenian teenager, Haji Yearman, and his father supposedly took three scientists into Noah's Ark. The scientists did not want the Bible proven and therefore ordered Haji and father under threat of death to keep quiet about the Ark. Yearman eventually moved to America and told the story to a Seventh Day Adventist pastor Harold H Williams in 1920 when 82 years old.

1877. James Bryce (1838-1922), British statesman, historian and explorer, claimed he climbed Mount Ararat in 1876 and at 13,000 feet found a piece of timber from Noah's Ark.

1883. Turkish commissioners allegedly discovered and entered the Ark. This was announced by the Turkish government and the story published in American newspapers.

1887. Prince John Joseph Nouri, 22-year-old archdeacon of Babylon, supposedly found and entered the Ark. (There is some evidence that the Prince is a fiction and did not exist.)

1902. George Hagopian, then a ten-year-old Armenian shepherd boy, was taken by his uncle to see the Ark. He visited the Ark again in 1904. Hagopian told this story in Easton (Maryland, USA) in 1970 to two Ark researchers.

1916-1917. Lieutenant Roskovitsky, a Russian pilot, saw the Ark at 14,000 feet from his airplane. Czar Nicholas II authorized a search and Noah's Ark was allegedly found by 100 soldiers! Roskovitsky told this story after World War I in an interview by Robert Anderson—a Mormon!

Col. Akexander A Koor supposedly interviewed relatives of soldiers of the 1917 expedition and published this in Russian in 1945. In March 1946 he sent details about pilots stationed in 1916 near Ararat to Ark researcher Eryl Cummings. John Montgomery, another Ark researcher, interviewed Koor in 1970 and believed him. (The Quest for Noah's Ark 1972 p. 245)

Skeptics weren't convinced and suggested that Koor merely embellished a story published in New Eden Magazine in 1940!

1917. Bolshevik revolutionaries of Russia supposedly suppressed the report of the Ark to Czar Nicholas.

1929. Sir Leonard Woolley (1880-1960), English archaeologist, discovered an 8-foot layer of clean clay in lower Mesopotamia and suggested this was evidence of the Genesis Flood. Later Professor Stephen Langdon announced a similar discovery at Kish about 300 kilometres north. The two discoveries represented different floods from different periods.

1936. Hardwicke Knight of New Zealand climbed near Ahara Gorge on Mount Ararat and claimed he saw many dark, soggy timbers, 9 inches to a foot in width, sticking out of the ice.

1938. Robert Ripley of the Believe It Or Not series claimed he found the grave of Noah near Damascus in Syria!

1938. A Russian Air Force major and squadron leader allegedly took distinct photos of the Ark at 14,000 feet. Although there are testimonies from people who claimed they saw them, the photos are lost.

1943/44. A story of sighting of Noah's Ark by pilots was allegedly published in one of the editions of the army newspaper Stars and Stripes. Thorough search for the article, organized by Cummings in 1973, failed to find it.

1943. Two American pilots with an air force photographer were said to have photographed from the air what they said is a great ship on Mount Ararat. The photos were lost.

1945. Eryl Cummings of New Mexico started on a life long quest to find proof of Noah's Ark. He, for example, interviewed a Dr. Jacob Liedman who claimed he saw in 1948 the Ark photos taken by the Air Force major in 1938.

1948. Reshit, a Kurdish farmer, was reported in the AssociatedPress (November 13) to have seen Noah's Ark.

1952. George Jefferson Greene, an American mining engineer, claimed he photographed the Ark from a distance of 100 feet during reconnaissance by helicopter. Greene was murdered in Guyana in 1962. The alleged photos were lost but Cummings has interviewed people who claimed they saw them.

1952/1953/1955/1969. Expeditions up Ararat by Ferdinand Navara a French industrialist of Bordeaux. In August 1952 he saw a dark boat-shaped object under ice. In July 1955 he discovered hand-hewn timber in a crevasse at 13,000 feet altitude and cut off a 5-foot piece from a larger piece.

Ark theorists had believed the Ark was at 14,000 feet and therefore surmised the Ark broke up in an earthquake and parts of it slid down 1,000 feet. Carbon dating gave the age of the wood as about 1,700 years.

1954. John Libi, an American, claimed he came within 30 yards of the Ark!

1966. An archaeological expedition up Ararat took 2,300 slides. Later Eryl Cummings saw a boat-like object in two of the slides.

1966-1974. Eryl Cummings made eight trips to Turkey and went up Ararat 16 times, spending 70 days on the mountain.

1969. Last climb up Ararat by John Libi then 73 years old. Mr Libi saw the location of the Ark in a dream and from 1954 to 1979 was a member of eight expeditions.

1969. Ferdinand Navara joined SEARCH (Scientific Exploration and Archaeological Research) for his final ascent up Ararat. Five pieces of wood, the longest 17 inches, were found.

1970. Dr John Montgomery made the first of seven climbs up Mount Ararat and reached the summit.

1972. John Morris expedition up Ararat. (Described in the book Adventures on Ararat.) Mr Morris is a creationist geologist of the San Diego Institute of Creation Research.

1973. First trip to Ararat by members of the Holy Ground Changing Center, a Texas religious community. They produced a photo of the Ark which critics said is a retouched fake.

1973. A photo of the area where Navara was in 1955 by an Earth Resources Technology Satellite from 450 kilometres showed a rectangular shape claimed by John Montgomery, professor at Trinity School, to be of the Ark.

1974. Turkish government called a halt to further expeditions up Mount Ararat. (At least forty expeditions had taken place since the first World War.)

1976. The documentary In search of Noah's Ark popularized the belief that the Ark still exists.

1978. Discovery of what are said to be two stone anchors 3 x 1.5 x 0.6 metres near Mount Ararat.

1982-1985. Jim Irwin, a former astronaut and member of the 1971 Apollo 15 Moon Mission, ascended Ararat four times and claimed he found the Ark.

1985. Salih Bayraktutan, assistant professor of Ataturk University in Erzurum, investigated alleged Ark remains on Mount Judi – 22 kilometres from Mount Ararat. He was reported as believing the Ark has decayed but that its shape is preserved under a mud flow.

1988. The Lost Ship of Noah: In Search of the Ark at Ararat by Charles Berlitz published.

1991. Dr Allen S Roberts kidnapped by Kurds. This gained international media coverage of his search for the Ark and his belief that the Ark's remains are represented by a 515 foot-long boat-shaped structure in a valley about 20 kilometres from Mount Ararat. He admitted that for this to be correct, all other Ark sightings had to be mistaken.

Professor Ian Plimer, head of Melbourne University's School of Earth Sciences, spoke out on television, "It is a normal geologic structure called a syncline." And: "There are fifteen places in east Turkey where people are looking for, and allegedly have found, Noah's Ark!" (Investigator Magazine 1992 May)

(Dr Roberts' doctorate is in Christian education from Freedom University, behind a church in Florida, which is not a registered university.)

1993. George Jammal claimed discovery of the Ark on Mount Ararat and appeared on national television but later admitted a hoax.

1996. Barry Setterfield, creationist geology graduate of Adelaide, Australia, claimed the graves of Adam, Eve and Noah had been discovered on Mount Ararat together with ancient writing which agreed with the Genesis chronology! (Investigator Magazine 1996 July)

1996. Article in New Scientist (November 30) about a coming court confrontation between Plimer and Roberts in April 1997 in Melbourne.
 

CONCLUSION

Most Ark hunters are Creationists eager to prove the Bible and in particular their own interpretation that the Genesis Flood was worldwide.

Violet Cummings quoted Henry Morris:
 

The confirmed discovery of the Ark would have worldwide repercussions. It would provide conclusive evidence confirming the global nature of the Flood, and thus the mortal blow to any further belief that evolution is a scientific theory (as distinct from its true character as a religious philosophy.) (1973 pp. 13-14)


Some books about the Ark give greater details than the above summary of searches for Noah's Ark. They may also provide more quotes from travellers in the Middle Ages. But the results are the same. The conclusion is that nothing substantial about the Ark has been proven.
 
 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Balsiger, D & Sellier, C E, 1976. In Search of Noah's Ark. Sun Classic Books. USA.
Berlitz, C, 1988. The Lost Ship of Noah: In Search of the Ararat. W H Allen. USA.
Cummings, V M, 1973. Noah's Ark: Fable or Fact? Family Library. USA.
Fillon, M, Science Solves The Ancient Mysteries Of The Bible. Popular Mechanics, December 1996 pp. 39-43
Gaskill, G, The Mystery of Noah's Ark. Reader's Digest. September 1975
Lang, W, 1974. The Witness of Mount Ararat. Bible Science Association. USA.
Montgomery, JW, 1972. The Quest for Noah's Ark. Bethany Fellowship Inc. USA.
Moore, P, Did Noah's Voyage end at Ararat? The Advertiser Magazine, 1988 May 14 p. 2
Navarra, F, 1974. Noah's Ark: I Touched It. Logos International. USA.
Nelson, B, 1931. The Deluge in Stone. Augsburg. USA.
Rehwinkel, A A, 1951. The Flood. Concordia. USA.
Stiebing, W H, A Futile Quest: The Search for Noah's Ark. The Biblical Archaeology Review, June 1976, Volume 2, No. 2, pp. 13-20
Whitcombe, J C & Morris, H M, 1961. The Genesis Flood. Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing. USA.
Wood, T, The Search for Noah's Ark. The Plain Truth, 1976 Nov/Dec pp. 16-21

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