The ‘Hong Kong ark’ fiasco
An overview to date (May 2012)
Published: 10 May 2012(GMT+10)
In April 2010 it was announced at a press conference in Hong Kong (and later that month a similar one in Amsterdam) that a team of explorers from that city had discovered what was clearly being claimed to be Noah’s Ark, high up on Mount Ararat. CMI was invited to send scientists to Turkey to take part in a press conference prior to further involvement.
Before committing supporters’ funds for such an exercise, I made the much shorter flight from Australia to Hong Kong to talk firsthand and in depth with the team alleging the find. I had many questions not covered by the press conference I had seen, including to what extent the finders welcomed critical analysis.
This is because years before, our ministry had had fleeting involvement with the same group. At the time, they had found and filmed what they felt was ‘the petrified wood from Noah’s Ark’ high on Ararat. And despite urgings of caution, they made their announcement to the world—before even having simple testing done on what turned out to be volcanic rock.1
I was actually not expecting to reach a definitive conclusion as quickly as I did, but after the meeting, I published my judgment that on the basis of the evidence already to hand, it was overwhelmingly likely to be a modern manmade hoax.2
And thus, that it would be irresponsible to spend even one cent of supporters’ funds to send our scientists to the Turkey press conference. This was especially so since it was clear that the need for critical analysis based on cautious scepticism did not seem to be well understood by the finders.3
The corporation claiming to have made the find calls itself Noah’s Ark Ministries International, or NAMI. It is an offshoot of a Hong Kong corporation well-known for its work in Christian film-making.4 When this article refers to NAMI, it means the Hong-Kong-based team, including the mountaineer Panda Lee who later joined the organization—but not the separately contracted Turkish/Kurdish guide (Parasut).5
Since we published that first negative conclusion in early June 2010, the evidence has if anything considerably reinforced CMI’s view.
The need to speak up more firmly now
We had hoped the matter would die a natural death before its inevitable further unravelling caused too much damage to the cause of Christ and biblical creation. And we tried to be gentle in our public treatment of NAMI in particular, as professing fellow Christians. We know of reputable believers both in Hong Kong and overseas, including one distinguished Genesis-believing ethnic-Chinese scientist, who have lovingly tried since then to get NAMI to save face and withdraw their spectacular-sounding claims until and unless they could back them up with credible evidence.
But all to no avail. In fact, NAMI’s response has been to heavily ‘crank up’ the hype surrounding the whole matter.6 While seeking to shroud the site in secrecy, and releasing scientific information very selectively (misleadingly so in relation to the carbon-14 lab results as we will see), they have gone ahead with a worldwide publicity and fundraising campaign, spearheaded by a major, highly polished documentary film.7 NAMI’s marketing seems to have dropped all pretence at caution; the film’s trailer refers to it as “arguably the most important find in human history”.
NAMI admitted at our private meeting that none of them had ever seen this large, ‘cathedral’ space.
All this has served to considerably ‘up the ante’—even independent of any biblical or spiritual aspects. Now, it is not only reputations at stake, but literally millions of dollars as well.
The fact that there are several widespread claims that it is known in the region to be a manmade hoax, (the most prominent one made by a Bible-believing academic archaeologist at a Christian university, see later) is skilfully handled by the movie’s marketers. ‘Controversy sells’ is the old saying, and the marketing seeks to turn the criticisms into a positive—a reason to ‘come and see for yourself’8 what has ‘ignited the controversy’. The trailer intriguingly asks, “Is it real? Is it fabricated?”
Which might all be excusable if the movie were in fact a genuinely objective assessment of the evidence, rather than something crafted to skilfully and powerfully ‘give an impression’—one which we will see is, like the details released at press conferences and on NAMI’s website, unfortunately, a facade of spin and gloss on a very, very flimsy reality.9
Not surprisingly, then, this subject has become ever more controversial, particularly in Hong Kong itself. Facts such as those outlined briefly in this article have caused a considerable body of believers in the Hong Kong Christian community to become very concerned—and while some of these opponents of NAMI’s approach to this matter could be said to have a dual motive as long-age (and thus anti-global-Flood) Christians, that is by no means true of all of them. And truth matters, regardless of motive. As we shall see, if by truth we include openness and transparency, it has been a repeated victim here.
All pleas to NAMI have fallen on deaf ears; pleas to scale back the rhetoric; to openly and transparently reveal all the data (which also means telling people how many of their images are actually computer-generated fakes, as we will see), to withdraw exaggerated claims, and to seek to salvage the reputation of their ministry and of biblical Christianity before any further damage is done.
No creationist organisation or creationist scientist of note endorses the claim
The irony is that of all the individuals and organisations in the world that would have welcomed (no, been ecstatic about) a genuine find, it would be those whose entire public platform is that of supporting, defending and proclaiming the straightforward truth of Genesis history, which overwhelmingly teaches a global Flood.
Whether it is people within the major creation ministries, like ICR, AIG, or our own ministry, CMI—or scientists like Russell Humphreys, John Baumgardner, and Michael Oard (to name but a few who have devoted vast amounts of professional time as independent researchers convinced of the reality of the Genesis Flood)—I know of none who rest any hope in this NAMI claim, while many are deeply skeptical. And some (including CMI) are positively distressed that once more, it seems, the Christian world is being ‘set up’ by another heavily hyped but phony archaeological claim.
That fact alone should give pause to reflect as to the nature of the NAMI ‘evidence’—here are all these individuals and organizations, for whom such a discovery (regardless by whom it was made) would be perhaps the ultimate public, global vindication of everything they have stood for (and often been ridiculed for). Yet none want anything to do with this campaign, save to deplore it. I for one would have liked nothing better than to be able to see evidence that this could indeed be the remains of the Ark.10
NAMI confirmed it had never seen any “giant wooden structure”11
Claims of a hoax construction were circulating early, and the key counter of NAMI and its supporters was: ‘How could anyone get all that wood up there and then plant it under the ice?’ Indeed, when one first looks at the collection of NAMI photos of the alleged ‘rooms under the ice’, especially the giant cavity (the largest in figure 1 here) with its seeming cathedral-scale floor-to-ceiling wood, the answer seems obvious: ‘They couldn’t.’ Especially when one sees close-up in some of the photos of what is undeniable (worked) wood.
Fig. 1: NAMI’s computer-generated image claiming to show where all the alleged ‘spaces’ lie within the ‘Ark outline’. See main text to understand the many examples of digital fakery throughout.
But a major problem emerged when discussing it with the NAMI team themselves. That is, there turns out to be no reason to believe that the (real) wooden structures photographed exist in anything other than a handful of relatively small patches. Crucially:
NAMI never saw the impressive-looking ‘giant space’ they depict
Importantly, NAMI admitted at the private meeting I had with them that none of them had ever seen this large, ‘cathedral’ space. So where did the photo of the giant space located within the ‘Ark diagram’ shown in Fig. 1 come from? Answer: it was given to them12 by the guide Parasut, the one who located the ‘ark’ and led them to the site in the first place—seemingly unperturbed by others getting the credit for this earthshaking find. (This is the same Parasut who has been named as the chief suspect for hoax manufacture, from an early stage of this saga, by several with direct experience of him.)
NAMI was then asked, so how can you know for sure that this site is even anywhere near the others? ‘We trust Parasut’ was the message. In other words, as far as they knew when announcing it, this crucial piece of their evidence could have been located somewhere else altogether. Yet they placed the photo into a relationship with those sites they had seen in the diagram in Fig. 1.13 This gives people the false impression that they have seen and entered all these spaces. And that they are all in the same location, which NAMI (HK) could not even say.14
NAMI have not sampled the ‘giant walls’ to see if they are wood
Clearly, if NAMI had never been inside the particular cavity, then they had no way of determining that the ‘walls’ within it were made of wood—especially given the distances in the photo.
Remember, there was real wood at the ‘NAMI site’. This is obvious from the closeup photos of much smaller areas of wood. But the issue here is that the amount of wood in the public’s perception is ‘boosted to the stars’ by the easy blurring together (conflation) of the first glance appearance of such a large space, and the modest amounts of definite wood, thus making it seem like there really are ‘trainloads of wood’ under the ice. And we shall see that this is boosted by substantial computer trickery, but first:
To geologists, these ‘wooden walls’ suggest instead a form of basalt
To casual observers, it might appear as if there are layers of upright (maybe petrified) beams.15 But to geologists aware of the fact that the walls of many of the hollows and caves in the area are lined by the rock formed from the abundant repeated flows of lava from the eruptions of the Ararat volcano, it looks more like just that—volcanic rock. After the lava solidifies, and the rock cools and contracts, it frequently cracks to form row upon row of repetitive, straightsided narrow vertical columns that look ‘man-made’ from a distance.16 The ‘giant cavity’ photo placed by NAMI ‘within the Ark’ in Fig. 1, as well as the second largest cavity therein (and parts of the others seen less clearly) could reflect the fairly characteristic appearance of rows of such upright structures which have formed within consecutive layers. This is from successive eruptions of the Ararat volcano, one flow cooling for a while to form the crystalline ‘beams’ before the next flow is deposited on top.
The digital trickery involved … is so stunningly and disappointingly comprehensive that the full extent of it had not even dawned on me till recently.
Creation-believing trained geologists have long reported evidence that there have been many such eruptions on Ararat since the Flood, and the many massive lava flows with which the mountain is covered would have fried the wood of the Ark to cinders in any case.
Another reason why the photo of the giant cavity can easily give the impression of a huge ‘room’ is because of the flatness of the ‘floor’ giving a ‘manmade’ look. But such horizontality on the surface of a piece of basalt is not unexpected; it was once liquid, and the surfaces of liquids are ‘self-levelling’. This could also give the horizontality between each layer of ‘upright beams’, again contributing to the ‘manmade look’. As indicated earlier, this will not have been the first time that NAMI has labelled volcanic rock as ‘petrified wood’.
Of course, the mere fact that this is the most likely explanation for these appearances does not mean that it is correct. It assumes for one thing that Parasut’s statement that it is a ‘space’ located within the area is correct. Some have not unreasonably pointed out that for all anyone knows, it could be a closeup of something much smaller that has nothing to do with any spaces in the area. But the crucial problem is, NAMI’s portrayals clearly let people come to the obvious conclusion (and nothing from NAMI dissuades them from this) that the photo is of a real, vast cavity lined with wood, and that they know that because they have seen it and entered into it—which is both false and misleading. More than that, its marketing actively encourages such beliefs, with its claims of ‘huge amounts of wood under the ice’, all unsupported by the evidence at hand, as we have seen.
But there is more—much more.
The ‘NAMI man’ in the giant ‘room’—the first of many examples of digital (computer) trickery
Fig. 2: The photo of the largest cavity, as provided by the guide Parasut (unfortunately only available to CMI in low-res): note how the ‘orange man’ was digitally added later. This image was later used as the source of more than one of the ‘cavities’ in Fig. 1. Click for larger image.
Astute readers will by now have asked themselves; if NAMI never entered the giant cavity, what about the man in the picture inside it, wearing the same orange jacket as the Chinese explorer in other photos?
Answer: There never was any man in the original photo. The undoctored version of this photo of the large space, supplied by Parasut (unfortunately only available to us in low-res) is seen in Fig. 2. NAMI admitted that this man was ‘photoshopped’ in later. I.e. added by digital manipulation. In fact, it becomes clear that the same image of the same man appears in the pictures of all of the rooms!!
This entire image in Fig. 1 is a computer graphic, put together hastily for the first press conference.17 It is in fact not made up of original photos at all in the way that it seems meant to suggest. For example, part of the photo of the large space has been used to ‘create’ the images of not just the large space but the second largest one as well, with a false floor ‘Photoshopped’ in to look like planks of wood covered by white pellets. This makes it a (fake) ‘match’ to what can be seen in the video footage of people poking around in a much smaller space.
So the whole picture in Fig. 1. is a highly artificial, digitally manipulated and ‘created’ image, including even digitally faked images—i.e. it is a ‘Photoshop construct’ from start to finish. NAMI themselves had no way of knowing for sure whether all such spaces existed, let alone what they looked like or what their walls consisted of (!). In fact, the digital trickery involved, such as using one photo to create several ‘spaces’ and then ‘dress them up’ further is so stunningly and disappointingly comprehensive that the full extent of it had not even dawned on me till recently. (Compare the walls of the Parasut photo in Fig. 2 to the large space in Fig. 1 to see the identity of some of the features, yet note the different ‘impression’ of the room as a whole.)
However NAMI may have justified this to themselves, whether based on ‘we trust Parasut’ or whatever, the reality is that the full story about this image has to this date never been pointed out to their public in general. It obviously adds a powerful and persuasive ‘touch of reality’, and has undoubtedly helped to convince many that this could not be a hoax. And even though created in haste at first, it could easily have been openly explained, cautiously withdrawn, etc. Sadly, that never happened, and it continues to form a major plank of their campaign. But there seems to be more.
Is that really the Hong Kong explorers in those spaces?
It concerns the video footage mentioned just above, of people knocking on wood, etc. The public in general get the ‘impression’ that this exploring and filming is being done by the Hong Kong team of explorers. However, one of the invited panellists who took part in NAMI’s Amsterdam Press Conference (and who wishes to remain anonymous18) asked NAMI just prior to that conference about this sort of footage, and it was admitted to him that several of the spaces entered while filming had not been entered by the Hong Kong explorers, but by Parasut’s team. Once again, the rationale appears to be ‘we trust Parasut’. But the impression to the public overall was that NAMI HK team members entered all the spaces that were filmed.
NAMI did not reveal the dates from the two other laboratories that positively confirmed that it was modern wood.
The strong propagation of this clearly false ‘message’, namely that ‘We, NAMI, a team from Hong Kong, have seen trainloads of wood’, helps explain an otherwise puzzling phenomenon that happens often in regard to this NAMI matter. What I mean is that even when people are confronted with the evidence from lab tests that we will see shortly—namely, that the wood NAMI did find is modern wood—for many, the obvious conclusion that this is a hoax still ‘fails to compute’. The reason seems to be that they think: ‘That couldn’t be—just look at all that wood’. But the ‘all that wood’ is clearly seen to rest on illusion, not reality. If one considers only the wood in the actual close-up photos, wood that really was photographed, filmed and touched by NAMI-HK, we are now dealing with only a very modest amount. This completely removes the objection to the ‘manmade’ conclusion, and the laboratory evidence showing that the wood is modern (see shortly) now makes sense at simple face value.
What about the 20-metre-long (60 ft) beam supposedly found at the site?
Because of how immensely difficult it would have been to transport such a length up the mountain, this was one of the things I had made sure I would ask the team about at our get-together in Hong Kong. Panda Lee, the very nice and genuine-seeming mountaineer was the one who had reported it. He readily confirmed that he believed that such a long piece of wood was there, but on questioning, he had not actually seen a 20m length of wood. What he had seen were what he believed were the two opposite ends of a single beam, each ‘end’ protruding from the ice/frozen soil, and separated by some 20 metres in distance. He had merely presumed that they were connected. The longest plank of actual wood he said he saw was about 5 metres (16 feet).
Is it the right mountain anyway?
Biblical creationists have long pointed out that the Bible, in the original Hebrew (not as translated in the most common Chinese Union Version Bible), does not specify Mount Ararat itself, but only the mountains of Urartu, a rather large mountainous region which extends the possible Ark landing sites to mountains in Armenia and southern Iraq. In fact, creationist geologists have often pointed out that ‘greater Mt Ararat’ (which only seems to have gotten that name in relatively recent times) is actually a post Flood volcano. This makes it even less likely to have been the Ark’s resting place, as its current height was reached sometime after the Flood. It is covered by the evidence of multiple flows of large amounts of lava, now cooled to volcanic rock such as the basalt that lines many of the ‘caves’ in the area. Of course, if the NAMI ‘Ark’ claims had not been so transparently based on a modern construction, such geological considerations alone would not have precluded further investigation. But though CMI currently takes no formal position on any ‘favoured site’, biblical clues also suggest a different site to this particular mountain, all well-meaning Ararat enthusiasts notwithstanding—see Where is Noah’s Ark? A closer look at the biblical clues.
Modern machinery marks on the wood
A very early indicator that the wood in the photos was a recent construction concerned the second from top plank in the photo in Fig. 3 of Panda Lee inspecting obvious wood. I asked NAMI at the meeting to bring up that photo on their large screen. I wanted to point out the existence on that plank of the characteristic parallel ‘chatter’ marks caused by modern electric high-speed rotary planing machines, used to make planks out of sawn lumber. When it was displayed on their excellent equipment in high resolution, it was much larger and clearer than on my computer screen in Brisbane, and the marks were even more glaringly obvious—parallel to each other at 90o right across the grain on the entire plank length shown. I tried to explain the significance of this to them. One commented that he had not noticed it before and would ‘have to think about it’. My subsequent article provided diagrams of how and why such marks occur.19 The subsequent statements by NAMI’s ‘expert witness’ Dr Joel Klenck (see later) blithely explaining these away fit well, unfortunately, with the general pattern of his eager involvement in this ‘find’, as will be seen later.
Fig. 3: NAMI team member inspecting wood closeup. The 2nd beam from top shows the modern machining marks on detailed enlargement. Click picture for larger image.
As Christians we are to ‘test everything; hold fast what is good’ (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Skepticism and caution is not an antibiblical stance, but the opposite. This is especially so when faced with such an extraordinary claim with such sensational ramifications, and thus with an extraordinarily high burden of proof. Clearly, the onus was on those announcing the find to demonstrate to their brethren, with openness and transparency, why there was any reason at all to believe that this justified further expenditure of scarce resources. I was stunned to hear the suggestion, at one stage during the discussion with NAMI, that it would not matter much if it turned out to not be the Ark—just think how many people would get saved in the interim, and thus we need to get this information out there.20 But God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. The end never justifies the means. Salvation is ultimately His business, and He has made it clear that it is truth that sets people free in Christ. NAMI should not have been afraid of being frank about the true nature of the evidence—including the truth about the small amount of wood they had actually seen, and the full facts about the radiocarbon data. Yes, it would have likely meant, as we shall see, that their claim would have been stillborn. But if it was not the remains of the Ark, so be it. God is still on His throne.
The radiocarbon evidence: modern wood
One aspect of NAMI’s persistence in trying to get millions of Christians globally excited about their ‘find’ has been particularly, even stunningly, disappointing. Namely, that from the beginning, they were in possession of data that they knew flatly contradicted their claim. And they have definitely had it pointed out to them since that it actually blows the claim out of the water. I refer to the results from the radiocarbon (or C-14) dating laboratories to which NAMI themselves sent samples. These are tabled in figure 4, which is data obtained privately in 2010 from NAMI themselves; the words in the ‘notes’ are their own just as they had them. The reality:
Two out of three radiocarbon labs reported to NAMI that it was modern wood
The one lab that didn’t was a lab in Iran; the date it gave was apparently just under 5,000 years ago, c. 2800 BC, which is right in the ball park from a biblical chronology of the Flood. Unfortunately for NAMI, it seems no-one told them prior to their announcement that once one concedes the reality of a global Flood, that is actually the ‘wrong date’ to confirm it as wood from the Ark. Why? C-14 results crucially depend on the carbon cycle in nature, which is why the effects of the industrial revolution (with its burning of large amounts of carbon from fossil fuels, carbon that has been out of that cycle and is now being returned to it) have to be adjusted for by radiocarbon labs. So, obviously, given that a global Flood event would have buried most of this carbon in the first place to take it out of the carbon cycle, that needs to be adjusted for, too, i.e. carbon that was once in the cycle, then removed en masse. Secular radiocarbon labs won’t make that second adjustment, of course, because they reject that there was a global Flood—but for obvious reasons, NAMI cannot logically deny a global Flood in order to protect their claim of Noah’s Ark from scrutiny! (For more details on this and on the method in general, see here in Chapter 4 of CMI’s The Creation Answers Book.) All this has been pointed out to NAMI, incidentally.
The wood ‘clearly shows signs of nuclear weapons testing enrichment’ (while the trees were growing) … independently confirmed by the second lab! To any reasonable observer, this should spell the end of any claims that this is ‘Ark wood’.
This is why, whenever creationists send a sample of wood encased in Flood rocks to a C-14 lab, the date comes back as tens of thousands of years, as any scientist who accepted a global Flood would expect.21 (Note that such specimens, including things like coal and oil, shouldn’t be dateable by this method, as they are supposed to be millions of years old, way past the time when all the C-14 should have decayed away.)
In short, a date of ‘c. 5,000 years ago’ is the wrong date for wood that was growing shortly before the Flood—which makes the fact that this one result happens to confirm the biblical date a bit suspicious, if anything. Rumours abound of labs in Iran that will give you the date you ask for (or the one that they think you want) so long as the bill gets paid. But one does not have to be that unkind. Because the results from the other two labs are already enough to sink the NAMI claim, even if the Iranian lab date is seen as ‘kosher’.22
NAMI concealed the results that would demolish their claim
Over a considerable period of time, the only radiocarbon result openly and publicly provided by NAMI was the Iranian ‘correct’ result, thus seeming to powerfully bolster their claim. But they did not reveal the dates from the two other laboratories that positively confirmed that it was modern wood. This is of course completely unacceptable, and is part of the reason for people repeatedly urging ‘openness and transparency’ upon NAMI privately. Now that they are, on this massive scale, openly soliciting funds and support from the Christian public, and linking the authenticity of their find to the credibility of the Gospel, such inappropriate and misleading—even deceptive—actions need to be widely known to avoid even greater damage to the cause of Christ as people are ‘sucked in’ by the carefully sanitized presentations.
Here are the dates from those two labs, from the table in Fig. 4.
Laboratory 1: Three separate samples tested. One gave a result of around 100 years. The second was stated to be post-1955. The third gave a result of around 600 years.
Laboratory 2: Two separate samples tested—both had also been independently tested by Laboratory 1 as reported above. One gave a result of around 100 years (as did Lab 1). The other was stated to be post-1950 (compatible with Lab 1’s ‘post-1955’, i.e. both statements are true).
Note that there were four NAMI samples in all; two of them were each tested by two separate laboratories (1 and 2) in effect therefore checking on each other. And each of those two labs independently provided the technical reasons for their conclusions (fig. 4).
Collated from table prepared by NAMI
Fig. 4: The full set of radiocarbon results available to NAMI in 2010. The words in the RH column are their own notes.
The fourth sample was tested only by the Iranian lab, and it was the only sample tested by that lab.
The second lab specifically stated that the tree from which the wood of this sample was derived had to have been growing after 1950, because, quoting from the lab report itself, it “clearly shows signs of nuclear weapons testing enrichment” (i.e. while the trees were growing). And this is independently confirmed by the second lab! To any reasonable observer, this should spell the end of any claims that this is ‘Ark wood’.
NAMI’s responses when the C-14 dating issues became public
First, concerning the ‘modern’ results, the claim was made that this was ‘contamination’, for example from handling. But they gave no acknowledgement of the way modern C-14 labs ensure that this is eliminated in their preparation of samples, which removes this objection entirely.23
An even more damaging point for the NAMI claim is that reputable labs follow a standard procedure to avoid falsely reporting on contamination, which includes reporting on what is known as the ‘δ13C analysis’. Both of the labs 1 and 2 supplied their δ13 results, as is proper (see Fig. 4); but NAMI’s Iranian lab seems to have not followed this proper procedure, as no δ13 result has ever been given—nor have NAMI ever released the name of this lab, incidentally.
Second was their response when they were faced with a definitive scholarly article by Dr Andrew Snelling pointing out the facts mentioned earlier, about how even the 5,000 years was the wrong date for Ark wood, as well as the way that labs routinely eliminate contamination (which also eliminates the ‘contamination’ excuse that poorly informed evolution-defenders often try when a C-14 date of thousands of years is routinely obtained for specimens that are supposed to be ‘millions of years’ old). NAMI chose to ‘shoot the messenger’. Despite Dr Snelling having a geology Ph.D. from a top secular university, they dismissed his careful scientific explanation—stating it was because his general stance on geology is not accepted in mainstream science. But this is hardly news, and hardly the point—the reason for the unpopularity of his (and our) views in traditional circles is precisely because his views, and the data he presents, do support the Bible’s record of a global Flood—which is allegedly what NAMI’s whole endeavour is supposed to be doing, too!
A corollary of a global Flood is that Genesis is factual history, and thus the earth is young (the fossil record reflects not the alleged millions of years of biological history, but instead the result of widespread catastrophic burial of the biota of the pre-Flood world). NAMI’s own film trailer talks about how the finding of Noah’s Ark would revolutionize science—and this is why. It is even more disturbing, then, that there are signs that NAMI (and their star ‘expert’ Joel Klenck—see later) are even prepared to abandon the Bible’s chronology of Genesis creation, siding with some of the very long-age reasoning that is so in contradiction to a global Flood. By pointing out how ‘out of synch’ with secular dating we ‘young-earth-creationists’ are, it comes across as a desperate attempt to discredit the creation movement and thus deflect that movement’s science-and-reason-based refutations of NAMI’s claims.
Other important, but lesser considerations
The major reasons given for concluding in favour of a modern-day construction are clearly overwhelming by themselves, more than sufficient to remove all reasonable doubt. But for completeness, other matters will be briefly canvassed.
The claims of fraud
As indicated, very early on there were claims by another Ararat Ark-searcher, American Dr Randall Price, warning that this NAMI discovery was a manmade hoax and that this was widely known among Ararat locals. NAMI sought to blunt his claims by suggesting that he was motivated by jealousy, since he apparently feels that another site on the mountain is more likely to be the Ark’s resting place. Of course, this of itself charges Price, a Ph.D. archaeologist and professor at the prominent Christian institution Liberty University and who runs World of the Bible Ministries (www.worldofthebible.com), with seriously unethical behaviour. Such blatant fabrication of false charges by Price (which would have quickly emerged had the NAMI find been real) would have meant the end of Price’s reputation, ministry and academic career. But the waters were now muddied by charge and counter-charge, so it was important for CMI to initially assess the evidence as provided by NAMI on its own merits, regardless of who claimed what.
Of course, once it was clear that the physical evidence so obviously supported a modern construction, at that altitude it meant a hoax/fraud of some sort was the most likely explanation. Using the standard reasoning of experienced detectives investigating a crime, Price’s account of involvement by the guide Parasut rang true in terms of who would have the motive (money—a king’s ransom in that poor region) the means (hiring locals) and the opportunity (months in which to create such a ‘Hollywood set’ using only a modest amount of wood, supplemented by photos of volcanic rock-lined caves looking like ‘roomfuls of wood’).
Price, who claimed direct experience in the region interacting with both NAMI and Parasut, later produced affidavits from locals allegedly participating in the construction. But these documents were later denied or withdrawn by the named individuals, neutralizing, even discrediting, the thrust of Price’s claims in the eyes of many, despite the many other matters in his very long and detailed website report (http://www.worldofthebible.com/Documents/Fall2010.pdf, updated since he first produced it).
Some time after Price’s initial warnings, long-term creation enthusiast and researcher, Donald Patton, produced photos claiming to be of his own journey to the NAMI site. (Many have been added to the above Price report as it was updated and still appear thereon.) His photos certainly appear from several clues to be of the same location as some of NAMI’s shots. NAMI claims that Patton never went to ‘their’ site. Nevertheless, in a demonstration of transparency which NAMI could well take note of, the site location coordinates are openly provided in the Patton report and within the Price report above. Patton testifies that the structure shown in Fig. 3 had already collapsed from shifting ice, and one of his photos shows a scrap of wood floating in a small pool of meltwater. Patton also claims (with photos to that effect) that the pieces of wood he found still at the site are ‘young-looking’ or ‘fresh’ on the inside when cut, and that the dark appearance on the surface is the result of having been ‘aged’ by rubbing the wood with a mix of ash and fat. Patton is a friend of Price’s, but has been known to mainstream creation circles for many years. During those decades I have on a rare occasion heard of his discernment on some matter or another being questioned, but never his integrity.24
Of course, publishing so frankly about the construction of a hoax is not without its risks. Lawyers for NAMI issued a stern legal letter to Dr Price (I have seen a copy) claiming that their client (NAMI) was suffering financial and reputational damage from his negative web references to their ‘discovery’. They demanded that he remove them or else face “legal proceedings” It seems also that YouTube has been pressured to more than once take down videos which document matters very damaging to the NAMI claims.
Enter ‘non-Ark-searcher’ and Ararat mountain guide, the agnostic Dr Amy Beam
Some of the videos I saw before they were taken off YouTube contained particularly potent and straightforward statements by a Dr Amy Beam, who has written more on the matter since. Beam is involved in the business of taking tourists on guided tours up Mt Ararat, has done so herself from time to time, and knows the region (and the rumours circulating) all too well. Dr Beam calls herself an agnostic about Christianity and the Ark, not antagonistic as such, it seems.
In addition to her Ararat-guiding activities, she garners and provides assistance to poor Turks, especially earthquake victims. But what seems to make her blood boil is seeing people mislead others and profit from what she says she knows to be a hoax, firsthand. She also knows the extreme poverty in the area, and the way in which a rather small amount of money by Western standards can buy not only the construction of hoaxes but a lot of other things, including testimony, confessions and even their subsequent withdrawal, if the price is right.
Beam has no sympathy for Price’s (or NAMI’s or anyone else’s) biblical cause, but is willing to lay her reputation on the line, too, as well as risk legal problems, to confirm that this is indeed a well-known local hoax. She also states that she knows only too well the character of the man who ‘led’ NAMI to the site, the guide Parasut, who has done extremely well in local terms out of all this to date.
Her website has a page on the matter, at www.mountainararattrek.com/ark/, with links to several documents and videos. The document at www.mountainararattrek.com/ark/KurdishGuides_NoahsArk.pdf is of more than passing relevance. Some of the video links, at the time of the writing, were broken, presumably due to their removal from their YouTube source. Interestingly, one of the people Beam had on her tours to the area was NAMI’s more recently proclaimed star ‘expert’ Joel Klenck. Like Price, Dr Klenck also has a real doctorate (from Harvard, in archaeology), and even submitted an article which was published in CMI's peer-reviewed Journal of Creation.
Some of Dr Beam’s most damning video evidence concerns Klenck. One Beam video I have personally seen is particularly important (it is no longer accessible, but this is not a problem, because Beam has prepared a slideshow of all the graphics and text of the entire video to bypass any NAMI-inspired YouTube censorship—see www.mountainararattrek.com/ark/arkfraud3b.htm.) The evidence it contains, which includes actual pages from Klenck’s own handwritten journal and their comparison with claims being made by Klenck elsewhere, is sufficiently strong (some might use the word incontestable) that it does not surprise me to see her emboldened to be able to state on her website openly and repeatedly that Klenck (whom one of the other videos shows her actually interviewing, slamming NAMI’s Ark find as fake before his sudden later ‘conversion to the cause’) is “a fraud” and “a liar”.
This is all in addition to evidence that strongly indicates that the writers of several reviews and letters to the editor praising Klenck’s writings are in fact all written by Klenck himself. It is most unpleasant to write of another human being in this vein, but the sad reality is that the hopes of millions are riding on Klenck’s testimony which makes it seem that this obvious fake is actually a real archaeological site, so it is not a time to be too timid. All of which makes it no surprise to find that Klenck himself, emulating NAMI, seems to have also started to back away from the very Genesis history that the Ark find purports to support—and that he claimed to support back when he was hanging around creation conferences and the like seemingly in search of some form of acceptance.
But while all this testimony of fraud and deception from unrelated sources is not surprising, and makes a lot of sense in context, I would draw attention again to the core reasons already given early on in the article—reasons which would lead to a ‘recently manmade’ conclusion even if there were not one single allegation of a fraud by locals.25
What of the ‘Turkish government’ announcements supporting NAMI’s ‘find’?
To explain why these add not the slightest weight to the matter, we need to go back to the time when many Christians were impressed by similar ‘Turkish government’ statements in support of an earlier Ark-hoax. It concerns the claims made by the late Ron Wyatt, cloaked in pious ‘Christian-speak’ though laced with demonstrable fraud, about the boat-shaped rock formation known as the Durupinar site (off of Ararat, but in the same general region). The claims were thoroughly exposed as a web of carefully manufactured falsehoods in a 1992 article by Dr Andrew Snelling, a Ph.D. geologist then working for our ministry (see Amazing Ark Expose) in 1992.
Even though Wyatt is now deceased, so no longer making a good living off of this and his several other spectacular archaeological ‘non-finds’, many Christians still get taken in by the same claims made by his disciples here and there. At that time, we also heard that the ‘Turkish government supported the claim’, and despite some exaggerations by the ‘discoverer’, there really was such support—just as for the NAMI claims.
It is not completely clear whether such enthusiasm from various people associated with Turkey’s government reflects sheer naïveté in some individuals, a desire to support belief in the Koranic version of the Flood, or a desire to bring tourism (and hence sorely-needed hard currency) into this very poor part of Turkey. Or some combination of these. The Governor of Agri Province at that time had even been filmed declaring the area to be a National Park, and opening a Noah’s Ark visitor’s centre next to the Wyatt/Durupinar site. Suffice to say that he showed no subsequent interest at all in any sort of ‘dig’ at the site to establish the facts once and for all.
But the motivation matters little in making the point that such ‘government support’ as was apparent at the early press conferences of the NAMI find clearly adds no weight to the evidential issues—whether for the Wyatt claims decades ago or the NAMI claims now.
Exactly who was involved in perpetrating the fraud is unproven at this point, though the general concept of Parasut’s involvement, at least, seems hard to doubt. But what is proven beyond any reasonable doubt is that NAMI (HK) have engaged, and continue to engage, in highly questionable behaviour. This includes giving false impressions of the find and the site through manipulative and selective presentation of evidence, including massive photo-doctoring and creating illustrations of ‘rooms’ they had never seen. They also selectively concealed scientific evidence which they knew would be damaging to their case.
This is so whatever their motive may be or be claimed to be. Only God knows the heart. Proverbs 20:5 tells us that “the purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water … ”. None of us is sinless, so all this is not being said from some self-righteous pedestal. But it is the highly public nature of their claims which takes the matter out of the private arena, especially once private approaches by several others have been rejected.
For Christians who know the reality, and who have some degree of public influence, this whole matter places upon them a heavy burden of responsibility to seek to make the facts public—even though it means issuing in effect a most serious public rebuke to NAMI themselves for their stance towards the Christian public in particular. All of the written urging I have seen to them to change course, to cease this sort of behaviour and stop digging the hole for themselves has been saturated with tears, as it were—laced with prayerful concern for NAMI themselves, as well as for the integrity of the Gospel in the eyes of a cynical watching world.
For CMI in particular, this matter of the Genesis Flood, and its corollary the Ark of Noah, is a vital, Gospel-related area. It concerns the truth and authority of the Bible in an age of unbelief, an area which must not be compromised by having millions of Christians fed seriously misleading information, including by omission. It is never too late to repent (in the biblical meaning of the word metanoia, or changing one’s mind). NAMI team members who did so publically and openly, regardless of personal cost, would find that many would embrace them for such an honourable action, even at this late stage.
Only the future will reveal how this tragic fiasco continues to unfold. If the Wyatt drama is any guide, there will always be some who will continue to believe in such fraudulent claims—regardless of the evidence. And it will likely, and sadly, continue to discredit genuine biblical Christianity (and the factuality of the Genesis record) no less than the false claims to have found the Ark of the Covenant, or the ‘remnants of the real cross’ and more in times past.
Meanwhile, as this website and others continue to show, the evidence for the reality of Noah’s global Flood is all around us, in the landscapes that surround us and the rocks beneath our feet. Just as the powerful historical evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ does not require finding the remains of the cross itself to confirm it, neither should one need the Ark to have been preserved in order to believe God’s Word, and Jesus’ teaching, of the global Flood as a historical fact. Even if it landed on some other (non-volcano) mountain, the Ark is in any case very unlikely to have survived to the present.26
If, however, in God’s timing and in His will the (real) Ark is discovered in future, then the potential impact will be if anything more sensational than even NAMI’s film trailer describes it. There will be then be no way that lab tests on the wood will show any atom bomb tests as the trees were growing. And there will be no need to conceal the majority of the results of any investigation, or falsely place, manipulate and create pictures—because the remains would indeed be those of the real Ark. And reputable creation ministries and Bible-believers everywhere would greatly rejoice, regardless of where it was found, or who the finders were.
PostScript added 1 June 2012:
1,000 witnesses to the find? Well, not exactly …
NAMI has announced a plan to have 1,000 ‘witnesses’ attesting to their alleged ‘Ark’ discovery. For 600 Euros per person, 1,000 people will be able to have the privilege of being picked up from Istanbul Airport and taken up Mt Ararat, to camp for a week and be able to “witness the scientists at work”.
It all sounds so wonderfully open at first glance. The press release by the Dutch NAMI-associated ‘Ark InSight Foundation’ quotes Parasut (real name Ahmet Ertugrul) as saying that “people can simply come and see. We have nothing to hide. Now, we recruit 1,000 people to witness the claim.” Mountaineer Panda Lee quoted in the same press release says that, “One thousand eyewitnesses will be very powerful.”
But how can that be, given the facts in this article? Easy, once you find out what ‘come and see’ really means. It doesn’t mean ‘come and see the site’. As Lee goes on to say: “ … don’t get me wrong, these thousand people are not allowed to venture to the site itself, since it is an important archeological finding.”
In short, the 1,000 so-called ‘witnesses’ will only be permitted to camp at 2,800 metres, more than a kilometre (over half a mile) below the site in altitude. The only ‘evidence’ they will be permitted to see is alleged artefacts and photos, plus some video footage of the ‘team at work’.
In short, they get to see only that which Parasut’s/NAMI’s team brings to them—along with an ‘explanation’ of what it is supposed to be and where it is supposed to be from or have been photographed—which is of course the same situation as has prevailed all along.
It seems that now that the lid has been fully lifted on the modern radiocarbon dates and the computer-digital-photography fakery, and will likely become increasingly known, the only thing left to resort to is transparent gimmicks like this. One would hope that not too many would get taken in by such an obvious, carefully controlled charade.
Unfortunately, one’s hopes that NAMI are all innocent players who have been taken for a ride by ‘Parasut and Co.’ keep fading the more that one sees their apparent involvement with this sort of thing—where openness and transparency, under the guise of being on offer, are again firmly denied. These are dark days for believers, and one can only wonder what will be next.
- Since then, things have become a bit blurred by repeated trips to the area in the intervening years, and their June 2010 display in Hong Kong featured various other bits of what had apparently been tested to be petrified wood purportedly from Ararat. But it was not stated to be from the location of the current find. In any case, it will be clear that the wood that really was seen, photographed and sampled by NAMI in relation to this latest claim was actual wood, not petrified wood. And, as will be seen from the lab results, wood of modern-day derivation. Return to text.
- I sent the prepublication draft of my original article to NAMI as a courtesy. On seeing it, they were dismayed that, though it was polite and not unkind, it strongly concluded against this being the Ark. They seemed particularly perturbed that the information might be linked to the actual discussions with them, rather than my ‘personal opinions’. The Hong Kong-resident missionary who came with me to the meeting had till then been cautiously supportive, even a little excited, about this find. To that point, he was still regarded as a supporter of NAMI’s, privy to many details not revealed at press conferences. He had even helped NAMI by co-authoring articles, one of which challenged the early claims that it was a manufactured fraud known of in the area (see later in this article). In the end, these articles were never actually used by NAMI. But because he had been instrumental in arranging my meeting with NAMI, after seeing my report they saw him as a ‘traitor’. It seems they may have agreed to the meeting thinking that CMI, perhaps finding the thought of basking in the reflected glory of the planned ‘press conference in Turkey’ irresistible, was going to help them publicize it. Return to text.
- At that stage, I put this down to overenthusiastic naïveté. Return to text.
- The Media Evangelism Ltd. Return to text.
- This needed to be clarified, because in NAMI’s mind, including Parasut as a team member could justify them saying ‘we filmed’ a particular object Return to text.
- This ‘hype rather than evidence’ approach is regrettably not surprising, because having weighed the evidence already to hand, it was highly unlikely that any such ‘proper evidence’ would ever be forthcoming—and it has become increasingly likely that NAMI themselves know this, too, unfortunately. Return to text.
- Called The Days of Noah—Apocalypse. In Australia, it opened at the Sydney Opera House, with tickets at rock-concert prices. Return to text.
- E.g. from one of the movie’s posters: “The findings of Noah’s Ark; real or fabricated? Let the whole world judge”. Return to text.
- When it came to the misleading impressions given by their early material compared to what I knew, ‘spin’ would have been too unkind, as it was still possible that these were the result of naivety coupled with the automatic tendency of everyone to see facts through a grid favourable to what one wants to believe. But once the powerful marketing machinery of this media company swung into action, along with their tactics of ‘legal damage control’ (see later) rather than an open approach, the playing field was changed—by NAMI themselves. Return to text.
- Ironically, it has more than once been suggested in emails from NAMI supporters (in Western countries) that I/we have a racist motivation to deny that this team has found the Ark—because NAMI are Chinese! I say ironic, because not only have I written a major and detailed anti-racist book, One Human Family, those who know me would think that I am if anything a Sinophile, as the book itself hints at. I spent ten pleasant years as the partner in medical practice of a brilliant Chinese Christian who remains a close friend. Return to text.
- These three words are directly quoted from their trailer. It will be shown that this is a seriously misleading description of the ‘find’ if judged by what the Hong Kong team had actually seen. Return to text.
- This was one of a batch of photos sent to them early on by Parasut when he apparently excitedly communicated with Hong Kong NAMI leaders that he had discovered the actual Ark. They had no idea what the photo was until Parasut told them that it was a large ‘wooden room” which was part of his ‘exciting discovery’. Return to text.
- The missionary mentioned in Ref. 2 told me that NAMI’s Andrew Yuen told him that he had no idea where the ‘large space’ shown in the photo was located in relation to the other spaces, and that Parasut had given this info only to Yeung Wing Cheung, the film producer. Return to text.
- Later statements were made that they had subsequently ‘lowered a camera into the space through a hole’, but again it appears that this was not NAMI as such, but something Parasut said his team did (which permits NAMI to say ‘we did.. [such and such]’ and remain technically truthful by regarding Parasut as a part of the team). Return to text.
- Though carpenters and engineers may raise a quizzical eyebrow over whether their arrangement there makes structural sense. Return to text.
- They actually represent cooling joints in the basalt, generally hexagonal in cross-section, a feature called columnar jointing. The length of the columns depends on the thickness of the flow and also the nature of any overburden. Such spectacularly ‘regular’ features looking man-made are seen at many tourist spots around the world, often named as ‘organ pipes’ or similar. One of the most famous is the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Return to text.
- NAMI were in fact advised by creationists they contacted prior to my involvement to not simply show photos of individual ‘rooms’ without some idea of how they related to each other spatially—but those advising were later horrified to see the extent to which this reasonable suggestion had led to the creation of such a fakery-filled image, based on Parasut’s claims and a filmmaker’s fertile imagination, as the main text above makes clear. Some early NAMI public information did mention that the ‘orange man’ in the large cavity was added for scale, though unfortunately, overall, very few members of the public would be able to glean in full the misleading nature of this entire diagram in Fig 1. Return to text.
- See later about the legal demand letter issued by NAMI, which has made a number of people understandably nervous about speaking up. Return to text.
- In deference to an overseas colleague at the time wanting to be ultracautious, we added a later note to the article allowing metal pitsawing as at least a remote possibility. My own view was (and was stated to be) unchanged; anyone who sees the chatter marks of an actual modern rotary plane next to the NAMI picture blown up will see why. Return to text.
- This complex matter involves several players, who might have differing motivations. The testimony of one of the NAMI leaders, Andrew Yuen, may be of interest. He says he became a Christian due to the ‘Ark-find’ claims of Ron Wyatt, and when these were later shown to be fraudulent, his faith did not falter due to his personal experience of God by then. (Of course, many others, disillusioned, had a quite different experience.) Return to text.
- CMI and other creationists have written extensively about C-14, even calling it ‘the creationists’ friend’ when the method is understood. CMI has often sent specimens to secular laboratories. If the result were to come back as ‘modern’ it would be accepted at face value; the closer that a specimen’s reported age is to the present, the more certain the calculated ages are to represent the true age. Return to text.
- The Iranian lab is also supposed to have supported their date by dendrochronology (tree-ring dating). However, as Dr Snelling points out, the lab quotes this age as “6,891 ± 4,547 years, or 2,243–11,538 years, which is an error margin of 9,295 years! The reason dendrochronology is so inaccurate is due to the fact that an unknown wood sample must have its tree rings first carbon-14 dated so that the tree rings can then be tested for cross-matching with tree rings in that time period in the master tree-ring chronology.” Return to text.
- Not only that, but if 5 out of 6 results were so grossly out of whack, then the method would have little use even in archaeology, when it has in fact indeed been helpful, including to biblical archaeologists. And it would be useless for NAMI to appeal to the Iranian result for support, by the same token. Return to text.
- Claiming to be incensed by the blatancy of the NAMI fraud, he has ‘gone public’ with these claims in a very ‘blunt’ way on a separate website www.noahs-ark.tv, including his own bad experiences with Parasut. Return to text.
- Ironically, one of the arguments heard early against the idea of a manmade hoax was that it would be impossible to do this ‘without the locals noticing all that wood being taken up’. But this is precisely the claim that Price and others have been making—that locals have indeed noticed! Return to text.
- Consider that it was the only source of building materials and fuel for the survivors and their early descendants. Consider, too, that of all of the thousands of Viking boats, for instance, only a handful have survived till now—over a much shorter timespan. Return to text.