Searching for Noah's Ark
By Bruce L. Gerig

So, what to write about in winter? The Bahamas, barbecues, the beach? Actually liking winter, my mind drifted to something the height of cold and icy. Mount Ararat. That towering, twin-peaked mountain located on the far-eastern border of Turkey, that rises majestically some 17,000' above sea level and 15,500' above the surrounding plain. And, of course, that leads us to the fabled Noah's Ark, which some claim still survives, buried up there in ice. Since the upper 3,000' is perpetually covered with ice and snow, it is at least possible that an ancient artifact could have survived (remember the discoveries elsewhere of frozen, fully-intact men and mammals?). Yet, if the Ark was discovered, wouldn't this be splashed all over the nightly news?

A while back, I decided to investigate the matter. Checking the libraries at Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University, I found about a dozen books on the Ark. Some dismissed it as myth, others concluded that it had survived on Mt. Ararat, and still others went off in narrow historical or literary directions that didn't really address the main question that plagued me: What about all those reported "witness accounts," and are any of them valid? In the end, I found three helpful books: One, The Ark on Ararat by T. LaHaye and J. Morris (1976), included many accounts, was well footnoted, and gave some evaluation – but it is now older (and out of print).

I felt I really hit "pay dirt," however, with The Explorers of Ararat, and the Search for Noah's Ark, edited by B.J. Corbin (1999), which I found through the Internet. About half of this book gives detailed accounts by thirteen different explorers who have climbed Mt. Ararat – and one discovers how difficult such expeditions are to arrange, how treacherous Ararat is to scale, and how inaccessible the Ark is, buried under ice most of the time (except during long, hot periods). Also, severe earthquakes on the mountain appear to have broken whatever is up there into 3-4 separate pieces, which now slowly slide down in glacier ice, into the deep, northern Ahora Gorge. The remainder of Corbin's book is given over to a description of some 85 witness accounts of various kinds (53 since the great 1840 earthquake). He also includes later analyses and many criticisms bearing on the various reports, which have clearly revealed some of them to be false. The third book, The Ark, A Reality? by Richard Bright (3rd ed., 1989), although older than Corbin, offers some material not included in The Explorers of Ararat.

So, is Noah's Ark up there or not? One interesting report (1989) comes from George Stephen III, a military-trained, remote-sensing photo interpreter, who concluded after studying official satellite images of Mt. Ararat that "there's two large, man-made objects up there on the north side of the mountain … not metal and it's not rock [but] perhaps wood" – one at 16,000' and the other at 14,800'. Although generally covered throughout the year with 70-30 feet of ice, they were "joined at one time because there is a spectral trail going down from one to the other." Although Stephen has not been able to produce hard evidence (he says the photos are "classified"), another remote-sensing specialist (Tom Pickett) evaluated his report as "an excellent technical description." More important, later in 1989, Dr. Ahmet Arslan, a skeptical Turkish guide, climbed up to Stephen's coordinates on Mt. Ararat and unexpectedly saw, from a distance of ca. 1,200', the end of a huge, geometric structure protruding out of the snow. Although close detail is hard to see in Arslan's photograph (printed in Corbin's book, p. 138) because the black hull blends in with dark shadow, the structure clearly has a peaked roof, with gently sloping sides. One remembers God's instructions given Noah to build an ark (a box), measuring ca. 45' high x 75' wide x 450' long (if 1 cubit = 18"). It was to have three decks, many rooms, and one side door (Gen 6:14-16). Its upper tsohar ("roof " or "window" area, v. 16) extended up an additional 18" (v. 16); later Noah would release birds from the window of the ark (8:6), to see if the earth was once again inhabitable.

Who are some others who have claimed to see the Ark?  (1) After three years of very hot weather and little rainfall, a young Georgie Hagopian (about age 10), whose Armenian family lived near Lake Van (75 miles S of Ararat), was taken up twice by his uncle to see the Ark (bet. 1904-06?). He described it as very long, rectangular, and bluish-green in color (from green moss on it). The roof was flat, except for a raised row of "air holes," 50 or more, which ran from front to back on the craft. The wood looked like stone; and when his uncle fired a shot at it, the bullets simply bounced off the Ark onto the ground. Although age can blur memories, a weather check for the Ararat region has documented that during 1901-04 the high temperature and low precipitation numbers were so abnormal as to be "off the charts."

(2) During World War II and stationed in Iran, Ed Davis was taken up to see the Ark (1943) by his driver's family (the Abases), who lived near Mt. Ararat. After climbing for three days and facing rain, fog and freezing wind, finally Davis looked down and saw about 100' of the Ark sticking out of the ice. He could see "partitions and walkways" inside the broken end, and a second piece of the Ark rested down in a lower canyon. Then it snowed all night, and by morning the Ark was no longer visible.   (3) A number of U.S. pilots, making reconnaissance flights over Ararat during World War II (1943-45) saw the Ark exposed during hot spells; and photographs taken were shown around to others, who remember them, and were also printed with articles in various issues of the military Stars and Stripes. Air Force Sergeant Vince Will was one such eyewitness, who looking down during a flight across Ararat, saw part of the Ark sticking out of the ice, a little above the 14,000' level.

(4) In 1958, 1964 and 1968, the National Geographic Society led expeditions to the Ark. David Duckworth, a young man who was working in the fall of 1968 as a volunteer in the vertebrate paleontology section at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, went over one day to see why his supervisor was so excited and Al Merrick showed him a large, composite aerial photograph of the Ark. Infrared photos had been taken from a balloon with a camera suspended over the boat by cables. A month later several crates arrived, out of which were unpacked pieces of ancient wood, old-style tools, and other artifacts. Dr. Robert Geist, a scientist from the expedition, told Duckworth that "they had used thermite bombs to burn into portions of the hull" so they could go inside and take photos – one of which showed "a stall or cage and a box that might have served as a feeding trough…" Dr. Geist told Duckworth that he had finally concluded that this was Noah's Ark because of a central gathering place that must have been used to get rid of waste. Later, additional crates landed on the loading dock, marked "MT ARARAT – National Geographic / Smithsonian Expedition" – and a coffin-shaped alabaster box was carried in, which contained a preserved (frozen or mummified) body.

Then five days later, all the buzz suddenly stopped. Officials "started taking the stuff [from the Ark] out and placing it under lock and key." The staff was instructed never to mention it again. Duckworth didn't think too much about it at the time; but later, after his story appeared in Violet Cummings' Has Anyone Really Seen Noah's Ark? (1982), he was visited by two "FBI agents," who told him that he was "making waves at the Smithsonian" and that "he had seen something that did not concern him." Rene Noorbergen, a veteran news reporter, spoke with a source who attended the high-level meeting in Washington where the NG/SI officials decided not to release, but rather bury, everything found on Ararat. Yet, this 1968 expedition has been confirmed by five people, in different locations, who were in Turkey at the time and who crossed paths with members of the Ararat expedition team returning home – all of whom were told excitedly, "You wouldn't believe what we've found! But we can't say anything."

Still, perhaps God has a hand in all of this. At the University of Erzurum (located 150 miles W of Mt. Ararat), an Islamic scholar told Robin Simmons, one ark explorer: "The Ark is a bomb in the world!" He explained that there is widespread belief in the region that the revelation of the Ark will be a sign that Mohammed is returning to purge the earth of all the heretics in a holy war. Then all true believers will go to heaven in a restored Golden Ark. Perhaps we should all be glad that the Ark has not been more "discovered" than it has. The truth is out there for those who earnestly want to search for it and find it. So it often seems to be God's way.

NOTE: Ahmet Arslan's photograph taken of Noah's Ark in 1989 can be viewed at   Two paintings by the artist Elfred Lee of the Ark, based on George Hagopian's descriptions as he saw it  as  a  child,  when  he  visited  it with  his  father,  can  be  viewed  at and at   Young Georgie climbed up the ladder (added at some point to the front of the Ark) and walked along the roof.  An account of his description is contained in Corbin's book (to order, e-mail

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© 2003 Bruce L. Gerig

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