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
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
- Mythbusters, Bomb Proof Truck Bed-Liner, youtube.com/watch?v=3JOXrpCLCJg, 25 Mar 2012. Return to text.
- Smash Lab, Rhino Liner Wall Blast Test-Discovery Channel, youtube.com/watch?v=VSvVy6oiMZI, 13 Oct 2011. Return to text.
- 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.
- Walker, T., The pitch for Noah’s Ark, Creation 7(1):20 August 1984; creation.com/pitch. Return to text.