Noah’s Ark, or … what?
Important update 16 August 2011
Published: 11 June 2010 (GMT+10)
Added August 16, 2011:
Hong Kong group launches movie about the ‘find’ at Sydney Opera House: for formal CMI position statement on this date, click here.
Added December 8, 2010
A downloadable video interview with Donald Patton from the Price team gives the most definitive indications yet to confirm our long-stated view that this was almost certainly a fraud. The video is available at this link (.WMV file). Some of the statements made are very serious, and CMI will probably not comment further except on any indications of a genuine Ark find.
Update with pictures 23 November 2010
Since the below was written, much more detail is now available from the group associated with ark-searcher Dr Randall Price. They have put a detailed 33 page pdf report on the site of their organisation, World of the Bible. This includes persuasive documentation, including photographic evidence, alleging a previous history of fraudulent activity by the guide Parasut, who is the one implicated in these latest hoax allegations.
Price’s report indicates that they have now had testimony from several people who claim to have worked on manufacturing the wooden structure that is the subject of the NAMI claim. The pictures below were taken by Price’s team, and the captions are from information supplied. We report all this without prejudice, and certainly not without sorrow. For anyone seeking to understand more details of this whole unfortunate chapter, the full report is not a light read, but is downloadable from Price’s site worldofthebible.com or directly via this link.
Not only CMI, but also our missionary friends in Hong Kong, as well as a Bible-believing Chinese scientist have been seeking to lovingly urge NAMI for some time to take action to avoid damage to themselves and the Gospel once the serious risk of this being a fraud became apparent. Price’s team claims, incidentally, to have found an interesting ‘anomaly’ high on the mountain with ground-penetrating radar, and which will be further investigated.
We would encourage all such claims to be treated with extreme caution, despite their obvious interest. The burden of proof in this sort of thing is extraordinarily high, especially given that Ararat has been an active volcano and that the Bible does not specify that particular mountain.
[Added 2 December: NAMI has vigorously denied the Price team’s claims in a statement downloadable from their website, including denying that the site is the same (Price apparently states that it has changed in appearance due to rockfall and glacial movement). NAMI’s document suggests that the Price team’s claims are motivated by their own appeal for funding. They state inter alia: “Randall Price has manipulated false and unverified information to attack and defame members of Noah’s Ark Ministries International. The accusations made … [are] very serious and give rise to a cause of action in defamation. Any person or party who participate[s] in spreading such accusations without verification is also liable for his action, and we reserve the right to institute legal proceedings in this regard.” Price stands by his and his team’s account, and he has also been interviewed for CBN’s Club 700 on this matter.]
Update added 29 September 2010: A new turn of events—more detailed hoax allegations
As the chronological reports below show, in June 2010 already, hearing about the alleged discovery of Noah’s Ark by explorers from Hong Kong, CMI’s Dr Carl Wieland travelled to that city to meet with the team in person. Obviously, we would have loved it to have been ‘the real thing’. We had been invited to join a conference in Turkey, with a view to developing and excavating the site. However, upon careful consideration, after the trip to Hong Kong, we took the firm view in our web report that this was far more likely than not to be a manmade hoax. (See below for further details).
NAMI continued to uncritically promote the find as Noah’s Ark, despite the comments of CMI and other fellow evangelicals. They are booked to present the find at a major forthcoming US Apologetics conference.
Most other creationist organizations have been cautious about the claim, though without any firm ‘hoax’ conclusion, and we don’t know of any other firsthand interactions with the team that had seen and photographed the site.
In our report, we mentioned the claims of Ark-searcher and Christian archaeologist Dr Randall Price, who described rumours of a hoax planted in the area (Dr Price is Distinguished Research Professor and Executive Director of the Center for Judaic Studies at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia). Our conclusion did not depend on those claims (see the earlier report below). The reason for this updated report is that Dr Price now says that his team has located and accessed the NAMI site, and states that they had the wood dated as modern. In addition, he claims to have filmed an interview with a local person (i.e. Turkish/Kurdish) who describes how he was personally involved in constructing the wooden structures at the site. This will no doubt create much confusion in Christian circles.
Regardless of how this particular turn of events pans out, CMI remains as convinced as ever that this is very likely to be a hoax.
We know this will disappoint many, but we believe that integrity is important, and particularly so because we are representing Christ as Christians.
Note posted 23 June 2010: The occasional supporter seems to have formed the impression that our conclusion in the main article (a hoax more probable than not) indicated the involvement of the Hong Kong team in such a construction. We therefore reiterate our statement in the earlier article (below the main one) that the team’s evangelical track record in Hong Kong is impeccable, and personal impressions gained face-to-face have been consistent with that. The suggestion concerns them being victims, not perpetrators.
Update added 15 June 2010: After publication of the below, photographs were sent in from another CMI office of pitsawn timber, also showing parallel marks which, while not quite like those in the photo, suggest that there may be special circumstances in which pitsawing could give marks which are at once parallel, equidistant, and at 90 degrees across the timber for its entire length. I.e. this could not be excluded as ‘impossible’. Pitsawing would require metal, but not powerful electric motors. While the article’s author remains of the same overall view, including that these are in fact rotating plane marks, the article has been modified to make readers aware that pitsawing is at least a possibility.
[Our earlier ‘progressively updated’ commentary appears below this article, and has been replaced by this one, so that the web link for that one will be redirected to this one. Any future updates will appear at the top of this article, not below as before.]
At present, there is considerable confusion mingled with curiosity on the announcement, by a team from Hong Kong now known as Noah’s Ark Ministries International (NAMI), of their discovery of wooden constructions under the ice 4,200 m (14,000 feet) up on greater Mt Ararat. Press conferences have been held, involving Turkish government representatives and academics, which have presented the finds in a way which indicates the belief of both NAMI and the Turkish officials that this is highly likely to be the remains of Noah’s Ark.
At the same time, rumours of a staged hoax, giving significant detail, are circulating strongly. We have given this matter considerable attention over the last two weeks to see if it was already possible to come to a definitive view ‘on the balance of probabilities’. The rumours of hoaxing have several inconsistencies within themselves (which is in any case the nature of rumour, so does not necessarily reflect on those who have reported the existence of such tales). Despite this, I have come to believe that a modern-day hoax is far more probable than any other explanation of the site. What follows is a synopsis of the points relevant to that decision.
- There is an apparent inconsistency in the technology from one part of the wooden construction to the next. One of the beams found was of a finish identical to that achievable with a stone axe. Contrasting with this, the photo repeated here as Fig. 1 (and which was the second from left in the top row of the photos below in our original article) shows planks that all have a sophisticated flat finish, with the surfaces all in line with each other, a finish of the sort requiring metal tools.1 But beyond that, one of the most telling points is that the second plank from the top in that same photograph shows the evenly spaced, parallel ‘across-the-grain’ marks typical of high-speed modern rotating planing/milling machinery. The box in this article gives more detail.2 However, pitsaw marks as the cause of the markings in the photo cannot be definitively ruled out.
- Locals and others commonly mention the presence of ‘caves’ in the area. Lining a pre-existing space is obviously easier than excavating frozen ground. Those with experience of the area indicate that when the surface ice melts later in the day, there is considerable danger from rocks set rolling before things refreeze that night. The more substantial surface melting and refreezing that would take place in summer would seem to make it conceivable for a structure planted in situ during the summer to rapidly become embedded in and covered with rock and ice, the latter even filling in gaps that would then give the appearance of having been there for a very long time.
- The largest ‘room’ shown in the photos at the press conferences (as in figure 2, an image handed out at the first press conference) was not in fact entered, sighted or sampled by NAMI, but photographed by locals. The person standing in it appears to be a later addition for scale. The features it shows seem to be more typical of a ‘cave’ broken out of basalt layers made by successive lava flows (Mt Ararat is a volcano). Removing that from the total amount of timber shown makes a recent construction project, though still impressive, a significantly less daunting undertaking.
- The ‘20 metre beam’ reported was not seen as a complete whole. The length was an estimate, based on the assumption that the two similar-looking ends protruding out of the ice represented both ends of one continuous piece. The longest beam where the actual length was visible was about 5 metres (c. 15 feet), and about 25 cm x 25 cm (10” x 10”) square. It is also easy for the eye to infer that the wood planking at 90 degrees to the ‘machined’ photo mentioned above continues beneath the opaque ice, but that was not observed. A construction could conceivably be done in such a way as to give the impression that it involves a lot more wood in total than it actually does.
- In this rather impoverished region, the constant presence of comparatively well-funded teams searching for the Ark would have presented an obvious incentive and a strong motive—an escape from the poverty trap and even worldwide fame and feting for a while—sufficient to even warrant the risk of working in an area where falling rocks in summer present a danger. The team was in fact led directly to the objects by their local guide. That same person (Parasut, shown in several of the video clips) was also the one telling them not to come during the summer months because the danger of rockfall was too high. While this could have been his true motive (and there are undoubtedly substantial rockfall dangers in the area), such a warning is also consistent with the possibility of his wanting to ensure that the work could take place with less risk of interruption in those very same summer months, if he was involved with a hoax, as has been suggested.
- NAMI’s website has indicated their belief that in general it would have been nigh impossible to keep such a construction project secret in this area. However, if a hoax has taken place, then the existence of these rumours would be consistent with precisely that, i.e. it was not in fact kept secret.
- The terrain is undoubtedly difficult and dangerous. It has been stated that anyone taking the wood for such a project up the last 2 kilometres or so would likely not have been able to utilize any vehicle or animal assistance. But to declare such a project ‘impossible’ seems difficult, given that months of time are available, and given the availability of local skill, mountain knowledge, and the hardiness brought about from living in such a region, even at lower altitudes. And though resourcefulness and ingenuity would be required for such a hoax, these would not have to reach superhuman levels. In fact, some things are such that, if looked back upon after a hoax had been revealed, for instance, would actually suggest an amateur involvement. For example, the ‘Ark touches’ here and there—the piece of ‘halter rope’3, and the little tufts of hay, as if to hint that the spaces had been occupied by animals not long ago.
- Scientific reasons why caution has been a big part of the approach of all major creation ministries should also be listed, though of course the appropriate onsite evidence would in principle have been capable of trumping these:
- The geology of the region. Ararat is a volcano, with features suggesting that it did a lot of its erupting in post-Flood times. It’s not just that this makes the Ark’s survival difficult to imagine, it also means there is a possibility that at the time of the Flood it was not actually the high mountain it is today. One of the few things that the ‘Ark’ claim by the late Ron Wyatt got right (see Amazing Ark Expose, with details of the many phony accompanying claims of lab test results, etc) was that the Bible does not in fact insist on Greater Mt Ararat as the Ark’s landing site—it only specifies a region called ‘the mountains of Ararat’.
- The radiocarbon dates are too young. These have shown great variation, with different results obtained even for the same specimens from different labs. ‘Ages’ ranged from just a handful of years to several hundred years for smaller samples, to 4800 years for a larger sample. But as anyone familiar with the chapter on radiocarbon dating from the Creation Answers Book (available as a .pdf on this site) would know, timber from the pre-Flood world, with its different C14/C12 ratio to today’s, would be expected to give an ‘age’ of tens of thousands of years. This is what one consistently sees with radiocarbon dating of coal and oil—and even fossil wood in Flood-deposited sandstone.4
Given that the evidence already available points so strongly to a modern-day hoax, we do not propose to continue detailed ongoing commentary about this matter, unless some further very definitive and important pieces of information, e.g. how the likely hoax was perpetrated and/or by whom, were to come to light. The publicity given to this matter to date would seem to ensure that it will be excavated further at some point (unless a hoax were to be exposed in some other way in the interim, e.g. a confession with video showing the construction). Supporters of creation outreach will already, I think, be motivated to pray earnestly for and about this whole scenario, including for NAMI.
Wood planing with a rotating cutting head
Marks on wood that are straight, cross-grain, parallel and equally spaced are the giveaway signature of an industrial type planer that has a rotating cutting head with straight cutting blades.
The machine has a round cutting head with a number of equally-spaced cutting tips or blades on the circumference of the head (normally between 2 and 5). Most industrial machines have a method of feeding the wood through the machine at a constant speed.
The cut is in effect a sine wave—see diagram below. The frequency of this wave (i.e. the spacing between the marks) depends on the speed of the cutting head, the speed of the work piece and also the number of blades on the cutting head.
(The reader’s attention is nonetheless drawn to the Update of 15 June 2010, above the main article, concerning the possibility of pitsawing marks.)
Diagram and photo (and most of the text) supplied by André Lamprecht, used by permission.
Is it Noah’s Ark?
Wooden structure high on Ararat announced to the world
[Updates at bottom of page: Latest 4 June 2010]
On Sunday 25 April 2010, a press conference was held in Hong Kong at 11 am local time. A local Christian organization, The Media Evangelism Ltd, announced that they had accessed and filmed an extremely interesting item 4,200 metres (14,000 ft) up on Ararat in an extremely dangerous and hard-to-access area. TMEL apparently has an evangelistic display in the large concrete full-size Ark replica on the way to the airport.
Buried in ice and rock, (well above the treeline) they were able to tunnel down and enter and film about seven accessible rooms (there were more) constructed out of what clearly appeared to be wood, including small doorways, a shelf, beams with pegs, and more.
As more information becomes available over the next few days, we should be able to flesh out some of these details, including more on the history of the find.
We have previously wondered in print how such a structure would survive the many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes evidenced by the mountain’s geology, and whether such an obvious source of structural timber and fuel would survive long after the Flood.
It is still early days and all believers need to be careful not to jump the gun, i.e. go beyond the evidence and announce it as the Ark for sure. There will obviously be a lot more work to be done to establish whether this apparently manmade structure is indeed the remains of Noah’s Ark, or a subsequent construction, perhaps to commemorate the Ark landing. The discoverers have indicated their desire to work closely with the major creation organizations to address the obvious questions that still need to be answered.
Even if this turns out not to be the Ark itself, this find (if genuine) and the ongoing investigations and interest will focus attention on the reality of the Flood in world history.
The following are articles responding to various other previous claims about the remains of the Ark. (Note: they do not refer to this latest claim and are not intended to reflect on it.)
ADDENDUM 1: Posted 27 April 2010
- TMEL have a subsidiary, called Noah’s Ark Ministries International Ltd (NAMI), which has a website which details some of the claims—http://www.noahsarksearch.net. [Note: provision of a link does not indicate that the claims are (or are not) being endorsed or verified at this point.]
- Information received indicates that TMEL held a similarly enthusiastic press conference some two years ago about a claimed Ark find elsewhere on the mountain that apparently turned out to be of no significance.
- We have had a chance to view many still pictures (but not yet been given formal permission to post) and there is little doubt that these are wooden, manmade structures.
- The head of an Ark-searching team looking elsewhere on Ararat sent an email to a creationist chatroom site which states that TMEL/NAMIL have in his opinion likely been duped by a clever fraud, involving planted wood. He claims to have accompanied the Chinese team on one of their several expeditions and implies that TMEL was led to its discovery site by a local not exactly known for his honesty. He indicates his view that some of the still photos were from a different site, suggesting that TMEL was misled into accepting these as of the same structure. He then states that he expects positive results from his own team’s investigation of an alternative site.
All of this seems to reinforce the need for caution—in both directions, as one would expect controversy and denial surrounding a genuine find too. We plan to keep abreast of significant developments and create further addenda as information becomes available.
ADDENDUM 2: Posted 6 May 2010
- A number of CMI staff have been involved in ongoing discussions over the phone with reliable folk in Hong Kong we have known for years. These are people who have close contact with the team announcing the discovery and vouch for their integrity.
- Indications at present are that the theory that ‘the Chinese team were victims of a hoax’ is getting harder to sustain. In particular, we have had direct assurance that the following pictures posted here below are ones taken directly by the team at various times at the site (click images to enlarge). Also, the discoverers have specifically responded on their website to the email by Dr Randall Price.
- While unable to comment with certainty yet about items such as the straw and the cobwebs in some photos, in light of some of the comments circulating, it should be noted that spiders (and their insect prey) exist at even higher altitudes. There are many anecdotal accounts of people going up to something like this over the centuries, in which case straw may be useful for overnight bunking, etc.
- Further investigations will likely require, initially, face-to-face inquiries with eyewitnesses, and hands-on inspection of artefacts/samples in Hong Kong. With the gracious consent of the discovery team, CMI has expressed that we are more than willing to cooperate with all relevant players, which will also assist us in being able to offer reliable commentary to our constituency via this page as it is updated.
- If such investigations continue to progressively rule out the ‘planted hoax’ theory, then it would appear that a substantial wooden construction exists under the ice at this very high altitude on Greater Mt. Ararat, a construction whose nature is yet to be determined.
- Greater Mt. Ararat is a volcano, with much evidence of ancient (hence postFlood) eruptions. So this could well be a memorial erected to the landing (which could have been elsewhere in the region, given that the Bible says “the mountains of Ararat/Urartu” centuries later). If so, it would still be a major archaeological discovery of great interest to creationists in particular.
In summary, at this time we believe, based on those recent discussions, that the evidence as it currently presents itself to us warrants more than just a “wait and see” approach, but a willingness to be involved with the investigation, ensuring that all competing theories are also fairly dealt with. We’ll keep you posted with such updates as soon as significant news is available.
ADDENDUM 3: Posted 28 May 2010
Apparently, some are saying that CMI believes it’s probably the Ark, while others are saying we think the opposite. A careful reading of our statements to date should indicate that neither is an accurate representation.
Our aim at this point is to keep supporters briefly informed of really significant developments, but not overloaded with all the back and forth. Nor to go into the minutiae of the arguments for and against the various probabilities.
Recently, the discoverers held a press conference in Amsterdam. Extensive video of that conference (the interesting question time is in part 5) is at http://www.thecreativelaboratory.com/conference/part_1.html
It includes comments by Parasut, the guide who has been named as a key figure by those proposing possible (or even likely) fraud.
There are also reports circulating of local Kurds talking about wood being taken up and planted in a cave over a period of years.
With our responsibilities to supporters in mind, we will have a brief face-to-face meeting in Hong Kong with NAMI leaders in early June. This is not because we have any reason to distrust the motives of the discoverers, whose evangelical track record is, according to Hong Kong missionary friends, impeccable. It is because no matter how logistically difficult a hoax would appear to be, it remains a possibility—history is replete with instances of intelligent people fooled by motivated tricksters (Jeremiah 17:9).
We have been informed that the meeting will include team members who were on the mountain and shooting the photos. Our purpose will be to better understand the chain of evidence to date, more from a forensic point of view than a scientific one. We want to make sure there weren’t any possible ways in which fraud could have been perpetrated on NAMI, helping assess the balance of probabilities regarding fraud, and trying to understand why NAMI believes it can be definitively ruled out.
As believers, we are told to ‘prove all things’ (1 Thess 5:21). That doesn’t mean waiting till the last excruciating test is completed before even letting people know of woodlined rooms under the ice high up on Ararat, of course. And in that sense, we understand NAMI’s announced desire to spread the news as widely as possible, right now, in the cause of evangelism. But if it were a straight-out hoax, (as opposed to some other ancient structure, for example) it would mean ‘major egg on the face’ for biblical Christianity. We see trying to definitively rule out hoax as a crucial issue at this point in time.
ADDENDUM 4: Posted 4 June 2010
At this moment of posting, Dr Carl Wieland is in Hong Kong meeting with members of NAMI who were on the mountain and took the photos. An email sent out today to supporters asked for prayer and included the following two paragraphs:
Via contacts in Hong Kong, there has been tentative talk of CMI being invited to attend a June/July forum (and press conference) in Turkey, along with various scientists and archeologists from the Turkish government. We respect NAMI’s passion for the Gospel, which appears to have led them to more or less take a stance in public that this is the Ark, till proven otherwise (the same stance was taken in Amsterdam by the Turkish archeology academic). NAMI has provided answers to several aspects of earlier claims that a detailed hoax had been played on them. Despite this, however, nothing to date has definitely ruled out a hoax, with some talk now of wood from very old remote buildings having been hauled up there over many months and progressively planted in a cave.
We really appreciate this opportunity to spend private time face-to-face in depth, something very necessary before there could have been any consideration of making a commitment of personnel time/costs—and before lending the ministry’s name to the claim, directly or indirectly. We will be seeking detailed answers to many specifics, with those who were there and took the pictures, etc. We believe that it is on the basis of such further intensive private enquiry that we can perform the appropriate ‘due diligence’ on behalf of our supporters. So we are very grateful to NAMI for granting time for CMI in their busy schedule. We are particularly grateful because we understand that the hoax allegations are especially sensitive and painful issues for them.
Carl has already reported that he has just spent a full day observing substantial numbers of secular people being exposed to very well-presented truths about not just the Ark and Flood, but about the person and work of the Lord Jesus, in an extremely well-presented public attraction driven by the efforts of the people behind NAMI. He said that to him, this spoke volumes for their motivation and passion for the Gospel.
We anticipate being able to give a more detailed comment about the Ararat claim after Dr Wieland finishes meeting with the NAMI team in Hong Kong. [See June 11 update].
- An assessment of the likely level of technology in the preFlood world is possible from looking at the civilizations that sprang up quickly after the Flood—Egypt, Mesopotamia, etc. Noah would have had a lot of time and incentive to ensure that preFlood ‘knowhow’ made it into the new world. Genesis indicates that metalworking was known well before Noah’s day, so it seems overwhelmingly likely that Noah had metal tools available to him—though not modern highspeed power tools. Return to text.
- Thanks to South African CMI supporter André Lamprecht for sending us a detailed technical analysis of how a rotating plane makes the precise sorts of marks noticed in the photo—see box. Return to text.
- If the rope in one photo I saw but do not have access to was in fact in situ and not from the discoverers. Return to text.
- Note that if these specimens were in fact millions of years old, as they are claimed to be, they should have no 14C left (it would be undetectable after 100,000 years at the most). In fact, even diamonds over a billion theoretical years old consistently give radiocarbon ages—see Diamonds are a creationist’s best friend. Return to text.