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How could Noah’s Ark have survived the flood?

Published: 16 February 2019 (GMT+10)

Today’s feedback is from Andrew P. of the United States who has questions about Noah’s Flood.


CMI, I have a pressing question about the Flood and how Noah could have survived it. There are many Flood models on your site, the most promising of which seems to be catastrophic plate tectonics, but it seems that an Ark of the proportions described in the Bible could not survive such an event.
How would it stop from capsizing with the massive waves that would follow such a tectonic event? Also, would the heat generated by such an event not have killed the animals as well as Noah and his family? Finally, the model proposed by Baumgardner includes high speed jets and cyclonic eddies. Would these not pulverize the ark?
Thanks for your time, and I hope that you can get back to me on this!

CMI writer/speaker responded:

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for your email.

We know that the Ark did survive the Flood event. Consequently, any concerns and questions about how that was possible simply mean that we need to do more investigation, which is always a good thing.

Various marine engineering studies done on the sea worthiness of Noah’s Ark indicate that it was incredibly stable. See for example Safety investigation of Noah’s Ark in a seaway. Engineer Werner Gitt also did a stability study on the Ark and concluded it was remarkably stable in fierce seas. He presented a paper on this at a CMI conference (see How Well Designed was Noah's Ark?).

Seafloor spreading by Catastrophic Plate Tectonics would have resurfaced the ocean floors. However, there was hot material already on the ocean flood but beneath an insulating cover of overlying rock, which was holding the heat in place. (For details see Catastrophic plate tectonics: the geophysical context of the Genesis Flood. Note the calculated mantle temperatures in figure 1 of that article.) After the resurfacing of the ocean basins, heat would have been absorbed into the oceans. These were warmer at the end of the Flood than they are now. These warm oceans were one of the main driving forces for the post-Flood Ice Age. (See What caused the Ice Age?) Also, when the top layer of oceanic crust cooled and solidified it would have acted as an insulating layer and slowed the transfer of heat into the oceans. Although the oceans warmed, they were never excessively hot. (See Do Greenland ice cores show over one hundred thousand years of annual layers?)

If the jets of water included in John Baumgardner’s model did occur, we would explain the survival of the ark as being due to the localized position of the jets and the Ark not encountering them. Not all Flood models propose water jets. As you suggest, there probably were strong hurricanes present during the Flood (See Hypercanes: rainfall generators during the Flood?), and the Ark survived these. Note that although the Flood lasted just over a year, the Ark was afloat about only a quarter of that time. It likely began to float after 40 days (Genesis 7:17) and came to rest on the Mountains of Ararat after 150 days (Genesis 8:3–4). All together this is a little over three and a half months, which means the Ark would not be at risk from jets, hurricanes, and ocean waves for all that long.

I hope this is useful. All the best,

Dr Tasman Walker
Scientist, Writer, Speaker
Creation Ministries International (Australia)

Readers’ comments

Kurt D.
When I look at the undersea “cracks” in the Pacific Ocean and the volcanic activity that took place on the day the “fountains of the great deep broke up” and compare the Tsunami it would have caused with the Indonesian tsunami of a few years ago, I’d say that if the arc was any closer to the origin of the original tsunami it would have been destroyed. But the Lord had Noah build it where The energy of that Tsunami would have largely dissipated. After that wave then everything else would have been lesser. Kurt in Alberta
Bonnie H.
Yes, totally agree that God designed and protected the ark and all within. However, I find the numbers interesting in this article. So if the flood waters were opened on the second month and 17th day, and the Ark came to rest the 7th month on 17th day. I understand that the water poured on the earth and from the earth for 40 days, and the flood waters stayed for 150 days after the fountains stopped. That is how I read Genesis 7. It may not be a critical point as to the truth of God's salvation and his mighty power and wrath and love all in one action. However, perhaps it is more of a question of how to read this section of passage.
Kenneth L.
It would be very interesting to find what is the longest documented case of a ship surviving in a major weather event like a hurricane. I don't know of any hurricanes lasting over a month--but I wonder if any of the wooden ship era records show a lengthy survival in bad weather?
Anil G.
Of course Noah only survived because of God, it was God that told him to build an ark in the first place, but we don't need to resort to gross miraculous intervention: it's common knowledge that tsunami waves are only dangerous when they reach shore. A common tactic for vessels is to go to sea when they get the tsunami warning. Of course there's nothing "wrong" with divine intervention, and I'm sure God has manifold levels of intervention too. God knew in advance all the more dangerous locations that the ark could have floated to, and no doubt arranged the volcanic activity to enable a safe drift route for the ark.
Andrew P.
Wow, thanks for publishing my question! This article, and everyone’s responses and comments have been very helpful! Yes, God’s intervention is very important to remember; when I asked CMI this question, I wasn’t thinking so much about that. Now, however, I realize that it’s really only by God’s hand that anyone survives. So, of course, that is how Noah and his family survived. Thanks, everyone.
James K.
As everyone knows books are capable of surviving fires. Therefore an ark that is better equipped to survive a flood than a book is equipped to survive a fire, can plausibly endure flood forces. This is a weak argument overall since it’s generally accepted the ark proportion and size is superior in surviving stormy seas. I don’t think any one has tested how geothermal processes tens of thousands of ft underwater would affect the sea surface par catastrophic plate tectonics.
Bob C.
May I humbly suggest that the the planet that Genesis describes was radically different as far as hydrology and biology are concerned. Which makes one wonder how different the physics of that planet might have been. If, indeed the pre-flood (or more correctly pre-cataclysmos) planet operated by radically different rules, is it not probable that the model for the arc (escape vessel) bore little resemblance to the models that post-cataclysmos man has assumed.
Tas Walker
We would assume that the "physics" and other processes would operate pre-cataclysm according to the experience we have of them today. The big change was the magnitude of the processes and forces involved in the cataclysm. And the account of the Flood in the Bible gives much detail (but not exhaustive) about the shape and design of the Ark, so the depictions of the Ark are likely reasonable.
Seth K.
I'm curious, were there any gigantic earthquakes that happened while the ark was still resting on solid ground? And if so, how did it not shake to pieces?
Tas Walker
Probably not while it was still on the land and before it began to float. Once afloat the Ark would survive earthquakes and tsunamis without any problem. Tsunami waves are almost undetectable in the open ocean. It is only when they encounter land that they become deadly.
Philip S.
None of the several modern repros of Noah's Ark would stand a chance in our seas, nor would its inhabitants!
Tas Walker
Says who? We know the design of the Ark as documented in the Bible was effective because the Bible explains how it was, and we are here to talk about it.
Robert M.
God was guiding & keeping The Ark afloat no doubt. I read & saw pictures of a series of stone weights hanging from the Ark on both sides. Possibly 1,000 + pounds each. May have been 10 -12 of them. That would add to its' stability. If Jesus can create a universe by His Word & still a storm, keeping an Ark would be no problem. He was holding the universe together as He was even in Marys' womb! Only unbelief has a problem with miracles. Joseph Cotton said in "Bernadette" 'Those who believe need no proof but to those who disbelieve, no proof is sufficent'! Luke 16:30-31.
Peter H.
Re: comment by Philippus S.: Two points that the writer of the comment may not have considered -

(1) The comment includes the words "Stop proving Godly events by useless thinking and reasoning.", and later "... trying to proof [sic] His works by scientific means using human wisdom ...". If you look at the very beginning of the article, you will see that Dr. Tas Walker writes, "We know that the Ark did survive the Flood event." with "did" in italics for emphasis. He is not trying to "prove" anything. There is a great difference between "proving" something and "corroborating" or seeing evidence of it. At one time I owned a book entitled "Fulfilled Prophecies That Prove the Bible". The title always bothered me because I reasoned that the Bible was true and didn't need to be "proven". I eventually got rid of the book even though it was quite interesting. Another example from my trip to Israel a few years ago: The group went to the site of the "Garden Tomb" where many believe that Jesus' body lay between the time of His crucifixion and His resurrection. Being there did not "prove" that Jesus had been in that tomb, but I don't believe or feel that "God [should] have mercy on" me because I went to that tomb and had my faith corroborated and strengthened.

(2) At the end of the comment is a reference to Matthew 18:3 (KJV) which reads: "Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." This reference has to do with faith or trust in Jesus for salvation, and I feel that taking it to mean that we should not look at and enjoy evidence in scientific discoveries which back up up Biblical truth is taking the verse away out of context.
Thomas R.
One point that is rarely brought up when discussing flood hydrology as pertains to the Ark has to do with wave and energy dissipation.

Both high speed jets and massive waves would dissipate rather quickly across a global sized ocean.

The larger the surface area of the water, the smoother the turbulence becomes over otherwise equal distances.

So a “sudden” collapse of a continent might generate massive, massive waves.

But hundreds of miles later, those waves would lose a lot of energy and smooth out considerably.

The earth is about 24000 miles around its circumference, so there is more than enough room to spread the energy.
Vance N.
In about 1973, the famous Scripps Institution of Oceanography did a study on a rectangular box-shaped model of Noah's Ark. Both the Hebrew word tebah (in the Old Testament), and the Greek work kibotos (in the New Testament) refer to a chest or box-shaped object in reference to the Ark of Noah. At the time the group that commissioned the study, they paid several thousands dollars, and agreed to keep the lab that did the wave tank study secret. However, after 46 years, it has become common knowledge. The study revealed some amazing results.

The hydraulics lab project test director was asked questions following the test:
1) How high a wave could the Ark have survived?
Answer: The tests showed that the Ark could survive waves higher than you would ever encounter in the ocean.
2) What is the maximum height of a wave the Ark could have survived based on your test results?
Answer: More than a 200-foot wave without capsizing. But there are no waves that large in the ocean.
3) What about tidal waves—would they ever be high enough to capsize the Ark?
Answer: A peaked up tidal wave could maybe reach 100 feet or more—but this would happen only close to shore in shallow water, not in the ocean.
4) Then because of the Ark's unique design ratio, it could have survived any type of wave produced by the ocean?
Answer: If it were hit broadside by a gigantic wave, it's conceivable that it could have been capsized. However, the surprising thing revealed by the tests was that the Ark naturally propelled its bow into the waves. It's a remarkable stable vessel.

Source: In Search of Noah's Ark, Balsiger & Sellier, pp. 117-118
Chris M.
Quick question: is there an explanation on how the ark started off in the Middle East and somehow stayed in the Middle East? I would think that hurricane force winds, currents and tides would have moved the ark significant distances from where it first started? I guess it’s plausible to think the ark’s design was built more for stability and no so much speed/movement?

You know what I wish someone would do? I wish one of these millionaires who have built similar ark’s would stock it full of animals and sail that sucker for 2-3 months and show it could be done.
Tas Walker
The Ark ended in the Middle East but would not have started there. The Middle East has kilometres of Flood sediments over it, and so would not have existed before the Flood in the form it is in today.
Stephen A.
The same God invites all to seek an find, and promises wisdom to all who ask. Though He has not told us everything (Deut,. 29:29), yet we may still ask in an attutude of faith and contrition (Matt. 7:7 & James 1:5). I think Job crossed the line when he began to demand an explaination. This shouldn't prohibit scientific and historic research by believers.
Dan M.
Also keep in mind, water is a major climate mediator. It is capable of storing large amounts of energy due to its unique chemical principals. Think about how much energy, (heat) it takes to bring a 2 quart pot of water to boil and then imagine the volume of the oceans. God designed the oceans as a climate moderating heat sink which is one reason I don't think the climate change sky is falling today. Other planets in our solar system can't do this because they don't have large oceans. They have huge temperature swings unlike our home planet. also think about how fast the lava from a Hawaiian volcano hardens after encountering the ocean waters? I believe this indicates the sea floor would have hardened quickly behind the moving plate as the mantle was exposed. As Dr. Walker stated, "when the top layer of oceanic crust cooled and solidified it would have acted as an insulating layer and slowed the transfer of heat into the oceans" very quickly. Also there would have been large volumes of aerosols in the atmosphere from volcanic action reducing the heat energy absorbed from space slightly offsetting ocean heating by natural means.
Another thing to think about is, the pre-flood civilizations, (our ancestors) were not knuckle draggers as the evo's would have you think! They were intelligent, (maybe more so than we do to genetic entropy) and could build many magnificent structures now buried by the flood. Also God told Noah how to do it. so he didn't have to figure it out by himself.
Keep in mind the evolutionary hypothesis is the myth, not Gods word!
Jeff V.
In response to Phillippus - We are instructed in God's word to prepare a ready defense for the hope we have - 1 Peter 3:15 - Creation Ministries has helped so many of us (including me) to understand that we don't need to collapse under evolutionary teaching. Many, many people have come to faith through ministries such as CMI.
Robert D.
Noah’s ark has fascinated me from the time I first heard of it in Sunday School. I would love to see it and touch it and explore its inner chambers. I know God with holds it’s secrets until the time is right, but it seems people have been to it and done the very things I desire to do. Is there an organization I could sign my grandson up with that he might possibly be chosen to go where I no longer can?
Tas Walker
There have been various claims of people discovering Noah's Ark but these have all turned out to be false leads. Search creation.com for "has noahs ark been found" and you will find relevant articles.
Kathryn B.
We must not forget that Noah built the Ark according to God's specifications and then God was watching over the Ark during that catastrophic storm. It was the Almighty who protected the Ark out on the boisterous waves! When we do things the way God asks, then He adds His protective care over us! It is as simple as that! We must not always feel we have to find a scientific reason of how the Ark was preserved because it was preserved by our Heavenly Father! :)
Norman P.
The logistics of the Ark's construction and commissioning, and associated geologic and climactic upheavals do indeed challenge modern credulity - but then so do other basic tenets of biblical testimony, including many New Testament events. Theologically, one can see that God prescribed what Noah was to do, as it was a visible prophetic witness to his own generation. For understandable and good reason, the Bible does not give unnecessary specifics.However, the scientific exploration of these questions is a vital in our day, in contending for the faith once delivered unto the saints especially for the foundational chapters of Genesis chapters 1-1. It shows the mercy of God, in countering the modern challenge from materialistic humanism and philosophical 'science falsely so-called'. Even so, itt also proves that saving faith does not depend on our natural understanding, for many still do not listen, however well the apologetics is done. Meanwhile, faith in the whole revealed word of God accepts that assuredly, the Everlasting Arms would also be involved in preserving the Ark through the Flood.
Philip S.
It is surely true when we have 10s of thousands of feet of roiling, boiling, sedimentary & volcanic rock deposits rapidly & sequentially laid down all over all the earth's surface, Noah could ONLY have survived by God's supernatural intervention throughout, not just when He 'remembered' him!! Look at all the violently uptilted & then ripped off, ground down remixed, sorted & redeposited rocks, like the monstrous boulders at the bottom of the 'Cambrian', or the masses of lime 'concrete', gravels & sands etc throughout, after the almost world-wide 'Gt Unconformity' was ripped off the 'Pre-Cambrian' rocks - let alone the 'Fountains of the Gt Deep breaking open' possibly at that time! I know a large number of marine + animals/plants - c 98/5 % of life on earth, not on the Ark! - had to survive, but they must have been largely underwater and in convenient backwaters & pockets, or entangled in floating debris etc.And when the 'Mountains rose & the Valleys Sank down', as Psalm 104 put it, that was another huge global erosional event that would have reshaped most of the emerging land surfaces [plus later by the comparatively little 'Ice-Age'] cutting 'Grand Canyons' and also depositing the massive marine fans of our offshore shelves. No, the idea that all those animals, people, artefacts etc smashing back & too as the Ark breasted what must have been huge waves at many points, without supernatural input, is just not on, however well built & large the Ark was. Just as any survivors of His Second Coming must be very secure in Him when He returns, in conditions 'Just as in the days of Noah - & Lot', for most will not be ready, even as 2nd Peter 3 says, denying it, as they also deny the Flood! MARANATHA!
Philippus S.
We must never disregard the fact, the one overriding fact, God was in control of it all, the same God that calmed the oceans and the winds , walked on the water. No man can simulate with any mathematical, scientific or other means that one fact, that this very same God as referred to in John 1;1-5 and the same God talked abut in the entire Bible from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 is the God that designed the Ark, the same Designer that is in control of every possible catastrophic event every weak meek useless sinful human being can think of. Stop proving Godly events by useless human thinking and reasoning. We humans cannot even understand and keep Gods created days and time, we cannot even understand and follow the messages He gave us in the Bible, because if we did, this world will not exist anymore, it will be free of Sin and people sitting in Gods lap slapping Him in the face everyday trying to prove the existence of INEFFABLE GOD whose real name I am not even allowed to mention. May this very GOD have mercy on us all for trying to proof His works by scientific means using human wisdom to understand it all. We are to remember this;Mat 18:3  And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 

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