Legends of catastrophic floods are found in texts from ancient cultures all across the globe, and they share some strange similarities. A man builds a massive ship, the world floods, and the man waits out the storm on the boat.
But there’s one story in particular that has captivated archaeologists and treasure seekers for centuries: Noah’s Ark. Many people over the years have falsely claimed to have found the remnants of the Biblical boat, but one team recently made a discovery that could finally be the real thing.
According to the story that appears in the Bible and the Quran, God asked Noah to build a giant ark where he can wait out a world-destroying storm. But the holy texts weren’t Noah’s first appearances.
His story debuted centuries earlier in Mesopotamia, though he was called Ziusudra then. Later, he showed up in a Babylonian story under the name Gilgamesh. Noah’s been talked about for a long, long time.
Given the mystery and power behind the original story, it’s no wonder that Hollywood has fallen in love with Noah. As the story of his ark became more and more popular, explorers began launching expeditions to search for what’s left of the boat.
But modern researchers are conflicted on the true story behind the ark. Some interpret the story literally, while many believe the flood might’ve been melting glacial ice as a result of the conclusion of the Ice Age.
One explorer, Robert Ballard, tried to prove this theory in 1989. He theorized that the Ark could have sunk to the bottom of the Black Sea after the glacial floods receded. But what he found surprised him.
After exploring hundreds of square miles beneath the sea, Ballard’s team miraculously discovered a 7,000-year-old settlement destroyed by floodwaters, but no signs of an ark. Though he ended up empty-handed, he wasn’t the last to go searching for the ship.
See, many ark-maniacs believe two blurry government photos of Mount Ararat (the supposed biblical resting place of the Ark) are hiding a secret that could confirm the ship’s location.
So in 2004, when businessman Daniel McGivern set out to explore the anomaly on Mount Ararat, many were disappointed when he was denied access by the Turkish government.
Another team went up into the Alborz Mountains in Iran and located what looked like an enormous blackened ruin. Though some thought this could be an ark candidate, others remarked it could just be a mineral deposit.
Most expeditions were sufficiently debunked as hoaxes. As one archaeologist said, “I don’t know of any expedition that ever went looking for the ark and didn’t find it.” But one group made a shocking discovery in 2007 that changed everything.
When a Hong Kong-based group called Noah’s Ark Ministries International (NAMI) traveled to Mount Arafat, they found something some archaeologists are struggling to explain.
About 13,000 feet up the mountain, NAMI explorers allegedly found large wooden compartments buried in the ground. And when they investigated the ruins further, they discovered something odd.
The group tested the materials using radiocarbon dating, and the age of the wood was revealed to be about 4,800 years old — around the time Noah was purported to have built his ark. One scholar, though, was not so sure.
Somehow believing both in the well-tested science of carbon dating and that God created the world just 6,000 years ago, he disagreed with their findings, purporting the wood should date back much more than 4,800 years. Others have different concerns.
Mount Ararat as the ark’s resting place is a modern concept, not specified in the Bible. “The whole notion is odd because the Bible tells you the ark landed somewhere in Urartu,” noted biblical scholar Jack Sasson. So what was the structure NAMI found?
Some scholars believe the structure could be an ancient shrine dedicated to where some thought the ark could be. But even then, the wood should be much younger for one simple reason: the Bible hadn’t been written 4,800 years ago!
Though the findings hadn’t been corroborated, Turkey planned to petition the United Nations to list the structure as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They were, perhaps unsurprisingly, unsuccessful. Despite all the setbacks, NAMI stuck to their story.
“We believe that the wooden structure we entered is the same structure recorded in historical accounts,” said one member in a statement to the press, “and the same ancient boat indicated by the locals.”
So while no one can yet confirm the veracity of NAMI’s claims, ark-heads across the globe will continue to search high and low for signs of the biblical boat. But some aren’t satisfied just searching for the Ark…
When Johan Huibers gazes up at his life’s work, a wave of pride rushes over him. After all, he’s done what no other man has accomplished — at least, not for a few thousand years.
Back in the early 1990s, Johan had a terrible dream. The young businessman saw visions of a great flood ravaging his home province of Noord-Holland in the Netherlands. He snapped awake the next morning with an idea he just couldn’t shake.
Hollandse Hoogte / Bert Verhoeff
Though Johan didn’t have a chance to act on his peculiar idea for years, it never left his mind. Then, in 2008, people noticed some construction happening in the bay of Dordrecht. Across a foundation of 21 barges, a crew was assembling a great wooden hull.
Flickr / Ark van Noach
Four whole years later, Johan felt ready to finally unveil his dream-inspired masterpiece. A large crowd gathered around the wooden vessel as Johan’s crew lowered the gangplank. At long last, he brought everyone in on his secret.
Johan built a full replica of Noah’s Ark! Inspired by his devout faith and an apocalyptic dream, Johan envisioned this ship as a way to educate and bring people together. He knew that only the most impressive recreation could accomplish this feat.
Ark of Noah
And Johan’s Ark can hold just as many passengers as Noah’s. He designed it according to the same dimensions described in the Bible. All in all, the ship is 410 feet long, 95 feet wide, and 75 feet tall.
Ark of Noah
Plans for the Ark came with a hefty price tag of $1.6 million, but Johan insisted it was worth it. He didn’t skimp on any details either. As stunning as the Ark looks from the outside, the coolest features are deep within the ship’s decks.
Ark of Noah
Just as Noah brought two of each animal aboard, Johan’s Ark has tons of incredibly lifelike sculptures. These statues give visitors a sense of just how many species of animals there are across the world. It’s almost like an actual zoo!
Johan also included lifelike habitats to go along with his animals to provide a sense of realism. After all, he says he believes every word of the Bible. That means Noah’s Ark must have provided aquatic animals with plenty of water.
Ark of Noah
With incoming funds from visitors’ entry fees, Johan hopes to upgrade his exhibit to feature holographic animals. That would certainly make his Ark come to life — without any of the costs and labor to take care of an actual gorilla. At the same time, the Ark isn’t totally lifeless.
Ark of Noah
On the top deck, an aviary houses birds of all shapes and sizes. It’s right next to a private apartment for Johan and his wife. When they stay overnight at the Ark, they wake up each morning to the beautiful sound of birds singing!
So far, only visitors in Northern Europe have been able to enjoy Johan’s biblical tribute, but that’s not due to any lack of ambition. In fact, people all over the world would have already toured the Ark by now if it weren’t for the mishaps getting in Johan’s way…
Ark of Noah
Shortly after opening the Ark to the public, Johan planned to sail it to the 2012 Olympic Games in London. While the voyage from the Netherlands to the United Kingdom is fairly short, it proved too costly.
the technical department
After all, Johan needed to hire tugboats to pull the Ark, which has no motor or sail of its own. In 2016, he again intended to go to the Olympics, this time in Brazil. But a disaster in his own backyard derailed the trip. It also threatened to destroy his life’s work.
Ark of Noah
After making it to Oslo, Norway, Johan docked the vessel overnight. A nearby vessel then broke free of its moorings and crashed into the side of the Ark. It began to lift to one side, and water poured in through the opening.
The New York Times
Thanks to the quick work of his crew, Johan patched up his Ark and stopped it from sinking into Oslo’s harbor. Less courageous individuals would have taken fewer risks after such a catastrophe, but Johan’s misfortune only made him bolder.
Ark of Noah
In 2018, he announced he would sail the Ark all the way to Israel! “This is a copy of God’s ship,” Johan explained. “It only makes sense to take it to God’s land.” Estimating the trip would cost an additional $1.3 million, he started raising money.
Johan failed to hit his fundraising mark in 2018, but that turned out to be a blessing. Severe wildfires in Israel would have posed too great a danger to the Ark at that point in time. Nevertheless, as of December 2018, Johan was sticking to his grand vision.
He insisted that his Ark would soon reach the Holy Land — and that will certainly be a special day. Just imagine worshipping in the Ark’s church just a short distance away from where Noah’s Ark landed after the flood!
Ark of Noah
But Johan’s Ark still waited in Dordrecht’s harbor, entertaining guests from everywhere. That’s a true achievement. In a world filled with cynicism and doubt, Johan remained unafraid to pursue his own miracle.