Has Noah’s ark been found?
In short, no, the ark has not been found. However, it is worth digging into this question a little deeper, because claims of discovery or sightings are so frequent.
People have reported seeing the ark many times over the last 150 years. They include Turkish soldiers, Russian pilots, Kurdish villagers, and foreign travelers. Most of the sightings and searches have focused on Greater Ararat (17,011 feet above sea level), although the biblical “mountains of Ararat” (Genesis 8:4), where the ark came to rest, probably refers to a much larger geographic area. The mountains are located in a politically troubled part of eastern Turkey, bordering Armenia and Iran. Ararat’s size and location have contributed to a variety of proposed sites, and some colorful adventures.
Most search efforts in the last few decades have attempted to pinpoint the locations given by previous “eyewitness” reports. One such report receiving much attention in the past year came from George Jammal—a Palestinian living in California. In an unsolicited letter to the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), and in a taped interview with ICR scientist John Morris, Jammal claimed to have discovered the ark in 1984. He alleged also to have a piece of wood from the ark, although Morris (1994) says he never was able to confirm this or the location of the find. Then in 1992, Sun Pictures began work on a film called The Incredible Discovery of Noah’s Ark. Although Morris had little confidence in the details of Jammal’s story, he referred Jammal to Sun, who used him extensively. During that interview, Jammal produced the mysterious timber.
The two-hour show, which aired on CBS in February 1993, switched between sensational stories about the discovery of the ark, and excellent scenes portraying evidence for a global flood. In either case, the anti-creationists were not happy. They expected CBS to make a public apology, but CBS and Sun maintained that the show was simply entertainment. What really caused a stir, however, was the revelation that Jammal literally cooked up his piece of wood, working in collusion with prominent humanist Gerald LaRue. Critics have had a field day using this incident to discredit the whole Ark show. Yet while the humanists snicker over their prank, we may ask which is worse: that Sun Pictures naively accepted someone’s claims at face value, or that people worked deliberately to lie and defraud? In any case, the film did not present a verifiable discovery of Noah’s ark, and Morris now regrets his involvement with Jammal (1994, p. 3).
Another controversial claim received wide attention in the early 1990s. Various video tapes and articles were in circulation proclaiming that the ark had been found 12-15 miles south of Greater Ararat (e.g., Yocham, 1991). Actually, this story began more than three decades ago. In 1959, a Turkish pilot had noticed a large, boat-shaped object in aerial photographs of the area, and an article in Life magazine the next year brought it to the world’s attention. Despite high expectations, a scientific expedition in 1960 showed that this was neither a boat nor the remains of Noah’s ark. However, one of the expedition’s members, René Noorbergen, published a book in 1974 claiming that this object was indeed the ark (Shea, 1988, p. 8).
The site’s most vigorous promoter is self-styled biblical archaeologist Ron Wyatt. Since his first visit in 1977, Wyatt has convinced various scientists to investigate the site. While many of these scientists believe in the Flood account, their results, plus surveys carried out by Turkish geologists, have shown convincingly that this boat-shaped object is a natural geologic formation. Various claims, such as having mapped the subsurface structure of a boat or having discovered wooden and metallic artifacts, are all false (Snelling, 1992).
No doubt more claims will come to light in the future. We must ask: Who is making these claims, and can the details be verified? Considering that the Ararat region has experienced volcanic and glacial activity, the likelihood of finding recognizable remains of an ancient wooden vessel is extremely remote. Therefore, Christians should treat ark discovery claims with a high degree of skepticism.
Morris, John (1994), “Noah’s Ark: Setting the Record Straight,” Acts & Facts, pp. 2-3, January.
Shea, William (1988), “Noah’s Ark,” Archaeology and Biblical Research, 1:6-14,35, Winter.
Snelling, Andrew A. (1992), “Amazing ‘Ark’ Exposé,” Creation Ex Nihilo, 14:26-38, September-November.
Yocham, Virgil (1991), Noah’s Ark (Lubbock, TX: Sunset Extension School, VHS tape recorded June 1991).