Posted by foryourfaith on May 23, 2010
We would not like to say that anything is impossible, but few things seem to us less likely than that Noah’s Ark should still be where the Flood left it on Mount Ararat. We were taught at school that the Old Testament story was a myth or allegory, and at the time we believed it. After all, the legend of a great flood that destroyed all but one family is a universal one – from Mexico to Mesopotamia – and Ararat is not the only mountain reputed to be the Ark’s last resting place, Mount Nisir in Mesopotamia is named in the early Babylonian account, and Al Cudi (also known as Mount Judi) two hundred miles to the south of Ararat is mentioned in the Koran and favored by the Syrians and other Muslims. There could of course have been many floods and many arks.
In 1829 Dr Johann Jacob Parrot, professor of natural history at the University of Dorpat, was the first European to climb Mount Ararat. Though not looking for the Ark, he was shown alleged relics of it in a monastery that was destroyed by seismic activity just eleven years later. Parrot has his place in the history of Arkeology for breaking an ancient taboo that prevented the local inhabitants taking foreigners up the mountain.
In 1876, Viscount Bryce discovered on a rocky ledge some 13,000 feet up the slopes of Ararat a piece of shaped wood about four feet long, possibly gopher wood. Supposing it might be a spar from the Ark, Bryce cut off a small piece as a souvenir.
Archdeacon Nouri, a dignitary of the Chaldaean church, conducted three searches for the Ark between 1887 and 1892. On 25 April 1892, he approached the summit of Ararat and there it was! The English Mechanic (14 October 1892) described his feelings, as with five or six companions he contemplated from various angles the great wooden vessel. He wrote: “I was almost overcome. The sight of the ark, thus verifying the truth of the Scriptures, in which I had before had no doubt, but which, for the sake of those who do not believe, I was glad, filled me with gratitude.” The Turkish government refused him permission to ship the Ark to eh World’s Fair in Chicago (if he found it). Nouri was later incarcerated in a mental institution.
Sightings of the Ark had been made centuries before the claims of Bryce and Nouri. As early as 275 BC, a Babylonian historian called Berosus, whose record was preserved by later Greek writers, stated that an ark was still to be seen in the Kurdish mountains of Armenia, and “the people scrape off the bitumen, and carry it away, and make use of it.” The Jewish historian Josephus also refers to pilgrimages to Ararat around 50 BC.
In the cathedral of the monastery at Echmiadzin, near the foot of Ararat, is a small fragment of wood, the relic of an earlier archaeological expedition by a monk of the time of St Gregory the Enlightener (credited with bringing Christianity to Armenia in the fourth century). He is said to have made several attempts to climb the mountain but each time, after ascending a little way, he fell into a deep sleep and found himself teleported back to the monastery. Finally he was told in a vision that the summit of Ararat, where the Ark lay, was forbidden territory, but that as a reward for his persistence he would be given a piece of its timbers. The piece, duly received, became the monastery’s greatest treasure. At the time of the monk’s expedition the survival of the Ark was a well-established tradition. These could have been the relics shown to Parrot in 1829.
Since the invention of the airplane the number of Ark sightings and explorations of Greater Ararat has increased. In 1916, a Russian pilot, V. Roskovisky, reported a large vessel lying on the upper slopes of Ararat. Tzar Nicholas II dispatched an expedition, and the object was found and identified as the Ark. Unfortunately the report was lost during the Russian Revolution the following year. These things tend to happen in Arkeaology. An article in the US magazine Christian Herald (August 1975), tells of an Armenian immigrant and a lost newspaper cutting. The Armenian, who died in America in 1920, told people that in 1856, when he was a young man living near Ararat, “three foreign atheists” had hired him and his father to guide them up the mountain on an anti-Arkeological expedition to disprove the Ark’s existence. To their fury they found it. They tried in vain to destroy it but it was too large, so they made their guides join them in an oath to say no more of the matter. the lost newspaper item (which several people claim to have seen but no one has yet produced) reported the death-bed confession of a British scientist confirming the Armenian’s story.
Another unlucky piece of evidence was the six large, clear photographs taken in the summer of 1953 from a helicopter less than a hundred feet above Mount Ararat by an American oil worker, George Jefferson Greene. they showed the apparent outline of the Ark half buried in rocks and ice on the edge of a cliff. Greene tried without success to raise an expedition and, since his death in 1962, the photographs have vanished.
For the last half century the Ararat region (where Armenia joins Turkey, Iran and Azerbaijan) has been under strict military control, and both expeditions and overflights have been extremely difficult. Nevertheless, the period between the end of World War II and 1974 was the great age of Arkeology. In the summer of 1949 two parties set off to find the Ark. One led by Dr A.J. Smith, a retired missionary of North Carolina, who raised funds by convincing investors that he had had a divine revelation of its location (Le Monde, 24 September 1949). Smith failed in the shadow of a rival Turkish expedition, whose colorful account appeared in France-Soir (31 August 1949). “We have seen Noah’s Ark,” they cabled, “but not on Mount Ararat.” The find had been made on Mount Judi in southern Armenia, which is believed by the Kurds and others to be the true resting place of the Ark. It is described as an impressive craft – 500 feet long, 80 feet wide, and 50 feet high – together with some bones of marine animals and, not far away, Noah’s burial place. The explorers, two Turkish journalists, also mentioned the local legend that the Ark sometimes appears like a ghost ship beneath a covering of mud. It is not clear from the account whether it was the actual Ark that was spotted or its phantom apparition.
Many Arkeological expeditions have used the Kurdish border town of Dogubayazit, beneath Ararat, as a base. Farhettin Kolan, proprietor of the hotel in the town, acted as a mountain guide for the great Riquer expedition of 1952, the successful Navarra attempt of 1955 and the seven unsuccessful ones by John Libi up to 1969. Libi, a San Franciscan who claimed to have seen the exact site of the Ark in a dream, retired frustrated at the age of seventy-three after an adventurous archaeological career which included the experience of being chased by a stone-throwing bear – a phenomenon unique in our records. Another familiar face on the Ararat scene was Eryl Cummings, “the grand old man of Arkeology,” who made thirty-one ascents, beginning in 1961.
The most successful Arkeologist of his time was Fernand Navarra, whose record was published in French in 1956 and in English in 1974 under the title, Noah’s Ark: I Touched It! From beneath a glacier and a frozen lake high on Ararat, Navarra excavated a number of planks and a hewn L-shaped beam. In 1969 he guided a party mounted by an American organization, Search, which discovered more such timbers and brought back samples. Experts using radiocarbon dating declared them to be some 1400 years old, though other experts at laboratories in Bordeaux and Madrid thought this result was due to the sample becoming contaminated with extraneous carbon 14 and produced the more biblical date of about 3000 BC.
Such breakthroughs have now become regular events in Arkeology, each new discovery upstaging the last. Mr George Vandeman, a director of the Archeological Research Foundation in New York, was reported, in Antiquity (1965), as stating that worked wood recovered by an Anglo-American expedition to Ararat was part of a large boat and hundreds more tons of the same timber still lay buried under the ice. Apparently, it was so hard that electric saws had been broken trying to cut it. Mr Vandeman estimated the size of the boat to be about two-thirds that of the Queen Mary, similar to the size of Noah’s Ark as given in the Bible. In the summer of 1974, just before the Turks closed the area, there were no less than eight Ark-hunting expeditions in the field.
Then we have the excellent satellite photographs, one of which prompted Senator Frank Moss of the US Senate Space Committee to comment: “It’s about the right size an shape for the Ark.” However, it is not on Ararat but near Tendurik, fifteen miles to the south and closer to Mount Judi and the Iranian border. David Fassold, one of the last Americans granted an excavation permit for the vicinity of Ararat, made nine trips to the Tendurik site between 1960 and 1994, and in the end was forced to accept that was a petrified mud flow.
In the last decade, we have seen the application of satellite imaging and digital enhancement techniques to photography of the Ahora Gorge, one of the locations favored by Californian film-maker Robin Simmons. Simmons, who grew up in the company of Ark-hunters, joined several expeditions and has spoken with many people who claim to have seen the Ark. One of his informants was Ed Davis, who was taken by a guide on a secret route up the mountain in July 1943, stopping on the way to see relics preserved in a cave by locals. After several days more climbing, the guide pointed into a crevasse, partly obscured by the mist. “Then I saw it,” says Davis. “A huge rectangular, man-made structure, partly covered by ice and rock, lying on its side. At least one hundred feet were clearly visible. I could even see inside it, into the end where its broken off timbers tuck out.” His guides told Davis that he Ark had broken into three or four pieces, and that in it were forty-eight rooms and animal cages both large and small. they planned to climb down to it the next day but had to cancel because of bad weather.
Inspired by such stories, Simmons attempted his own search in the mid-1990s. One of his guides, climbing alone, radioed back excitedly that he had photographed an object about a quarter of a mile away, “a dark area in the ice, like a barn.” Simmons had the film enhanced using specialized satellite imaging software and studied by an aerial reconnaissance expert. Months later, on another visit, flying close to the Ahora Gorge, Simmons believed he saw dark spaces resembling Ed Davis’s description of the Ark broken into several parts on the sheer glacier.
Over many years of collecting accounts and stories about the Ark on Ararat, Simmons is convinced that not all has been revealed and that the “truth” is considerably stranger than imagined. Much of his research contains elements that would not be out of place in a typical crashed UFO scenario, complete with recovered bodies and suggestions of high-level conspiracy. For example, he was told by a “protected” source that an espionage team, returning across Ararat in secret in 1974, fell into a structure they took to be an ancient Byzantine shrine. When it was realized what this might be, a classified report went “all the way to the White House.”
This strange twist to the story has seemingly been corroborated by other accounts. A pilot, flying secret missions that took him over Ararat many times in the first half of 1960, said that he regularly saw and photographed a huge rectangular object protruding from the ice at an altitude of around fifteen thousand feet. Stranger still is the tale of David Duckworth, a young volunteer worker at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, who stumbled upon a secret shipment of artifacts from Turkey including a sarcophagus containing a body. There the curtain of silence falls as Duckworth was apparently ordered to keep quiet by two FBI agents.
Why the secrecy and conspiracy? Simmons’s theory is that the US military, in a case of classic Cold War paranoia, believes that public confirmation of the Ark’s existence would incite Islamic Fundamentalism on a global scale. He was told by an Islamic scholar at the University of Erzurum that “the Ark is a bomb in the world,” referring to a belief that its reappearance would herald the return of Mohammed to purge the Earth of heretics and unbelievers.
Judging by its post-Diluvian history, Noah’s Ark has an existence like that of the Loch Ness monster or the Abominable Snowman – phenomenal rather than physical. As is usual with such things, there are legends, sightings and ambiguous relics and photographs, all of which fall short of scientific proof. yet people continue to dream of Noah’s Ark and some go in search of it, and it responds with dreamlike evidence of itself, which never quite achieves hard reality.