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Creation 36(3):15, July 2014

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Noah’s Ark—water and impact resistant?

Explosive experiments show benefits of pitch double coating




When God gave Noah instructions on how to build the Ark, it was to be covered, inside and out, with pitch.

It’s obvious that the pitch was meant to make the Ark waterproof, but was it also to provide added protection because of the extraordinary forces of water and debris slamming against the vessel?

There appears to be a possible explanation from an unlikely place; two reality television shows that appeared on Discovery Channel.

The science-based show Mythbusters conducted a number of experiments with a protective polyurethane product called bed-liner that is sprayed on surfaces such as the bed of a utility vehicle.1

They wanted to test the ‘myth’ that by coating a house with such a product it could be made blast proof.

Control blasts using C4 explosive were conducted on four test walls—two each of wood and concrete block.

A blastload of 95 psi on an untreated wooden wall caused a considerable hole but, when a similarly constructed wall was sprayed inside and out, there was no damage from the same-sized blast.

Tests on concrete block walls, for which the blastload was increased to 1400 psi, produced similar results to the wooden ones.

Another Discovery Channel program called Smash Lab, conducted similar tests on four concrete block walls; the first with no spray coating, a second sprayed on the outside only, a third with it on the inside only and a fourth with it on both sides.2

European shipbuilders sealed vessels for many centuries by using pine-tree resin

No details were given on how much blastload was generated but the results reflected what the Mythbusters team discovered.

While we know the chemistry of polyurethane 3 we can’t know about the properties of the pitch used on the Ark. Nowadays, we think of pitch derived from oil or coal, but European shipbuilders sealed vessels for many centuries by using pine-tree resin.

Resin was obtained via a herringbone pattern of cuts gouged into a tree trunk and collected in a pot. The trees were then chopped down, covered in soil or ash, and burned slowly to produce a lightweight black pure form of carbon called charcoal. The last step was to add the powdered charcoal to the boiling pine resins.4 Pitch produced by such methods was used to waterproof large ocean-going wooden ships.

Given how much protection a spray-on polyurethane product gives structures, it is a fascinating thought that coating the Ark with pitch not only made it waterproof but also impact resistant as well.

References and notes

  1. Mythbusters, Bomb Proof Truck Bed-Liner, youtube.com/watch?v=3JOXrpCLCJg, 25 Mar 2012. Return to text.
  2. Smash Lab, Rhino Liner Wall Blast Test-Discovery Channel, youtube.com/watch?v=VSvVy6oiMZI, 13 Oct 2011. Return to text.
  3. Polyurethane is formed by reacting a polyol (an alcohol with more than two reactive hydroxyl groups per molecule) with a diisocyanate or a polymeric isocyanate in the presence of suitable catalysts and additives (see: How it’s made: Introduction to polyurethanes, polyurethane.americanchemistry.com, 2014). Return to text.
  4. Walker, T., The pitch for Noah’s Ark, Creation 7(1):20 August 1984; creation.com/pitch. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

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Readers’ comments

Terry W.
I think it should be pointed out that Adam Savage at Mythbusters is about as hostile a witness as you can cite on an article such as this, claiming billions of years and Evolution as facts at the Reason Rally held at the Washington Mall in March of 2012.
Andrea F.
Makes so much sense.
Stephen S.
Very thought provoking article. Coating the ark to make it impact resistant would make sense, considering the tremendous forces at work during the time of the Flood, both as the world was being covered in water, and when the waters receded. The ark would be at risk of impacting large objects (such as mountain tops) as the waters raised and receded, and such protection would only serve to preserve the structure of the boat. Yet another example of God's foresight and planning.
Warren Nunn
It is also known that the Scandinavians perfected a process of burning pine wood-which the Norwegians call tjærebrenning (tar-burning)-that provides great quantities of tar which is widely used as a sealant. The tar-burning process starts with pine wood arranged in such a way that as it burns the tar drains out by a channel to a waiting receptacle. To concentrate the fire, the wood is traditionally covered with peat moss to create a kiln-like effect.

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