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Considering Noah's Ark
The Ark Itself
The construction of Noah’s Ark has been questioned by some as being impossible. At 450 feet in length the Ark was the largest wooden ship ever built. Looking at nineteenth century ship building, the hey-day of wooden ship building, they claim that ships of that size were structurally unsound. But was 19th century shipbuilding the pinnacle of knowledge about shipbuilding?
In the 19th century they could not build the pyramids to the degree of precision attained by the Egyptians, even a 21st century contractor would have problems with that. The stone work of the ancient cities in the Andes cannot even today be equalled. Simply because the scientists of the day do not know how it was done does not mean that it cannot be done.
The largest wooden ships of the 19th century were the HMS Orlando and HMS Mersey. They were approximately 200 cubits (335ft) in length, and as mentioned above, suffered structural problems. These problems were the result of building techniques of the day, such as the use of nails which when the ship flexed with the waves, would work their way loose causing leakage. The 329 ft. long Wyoming suffered from a similar problem.
Prior to these ships there are the Treasure ships of the Ming dynasty (15TH century). These ocean going ships are claimed by some to have been 450 ft. (300 cubits) in length. This is disputed with others allowing a length of only 200 ft. and claiming that they were river craft. Only the discovery of the remains of one will settle the issue.
Ptolemy IV of Egypt is recorded as having built a ship of 280 cubits (420 ft.). This was a catamaran and was probably built using mortise and tenon construction. This was a method that used interlocking wooden pieces and wooden pegs to fasten boards together. As the wood soaked in water it would expand, helping to prevent working loose while flexing and also sealing the planking from leakage. It is this method which is believed to have been used by Noah to construct the Ark. This construction would also have been done in layers both to increase strength and to improve resistance to leakage. All of this would have been placed on keels made of trees, not simply planks, trees would provide both the flexibility and strength needed for such a long vessel, and yes, there was more than one.
Noah's Ark design site; hull size and shape, structure, interior layouts, construction options. Global flood mechanisms and wave severity.
The Ark Afloat
Now that we know that Mr. Noah’s boat will float we need to examine how stable it was. The models of the flood range from quiet seas to oceans of raging tsunamis. A group of engineers with the Korea Research Institute of Ships and Engineering undertook to test the Ark for safety. To ensure a thorough test they tested not only the design inferred from the dimensions given in the Bible, but 12 other variations as well. They assumed a drifting ship and not only did they use mathematic modeling but also built three 1/50 scale models that were tested in a tank. Their results indicate that Ark was seaworthy in waves up to 30m. This testing is not usually referenced by those criticising the seaworthiness of the ark.
Korea Research Institute of Ships and Engineering paper on Noah's Ark.
Inside the Ark
What then would life have been like inside the ark? John Woodmaroppe in his book “Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study” considered many of the issues involved in answering this question. He starts with the number of animals on the ark, 15,754 (there is a detailed examination of how he reaches this number). He breaks down the number by animal body mass and determines the floor space required to house the animals which, without tiering (as could be done with birds and rodents) less than half the floor space of the ark was used for housing the animals. He then examines the kind and quantities of food required and how much space would be needed to store this, about 22% of the volume.
What would it have been like to breathe in the ark? If you’ve ever been in a barn or an animal house at the zoo you know animals get very smelly very quickly. Mr. Woodmaroppe examines the airflow in the ark and shows that there were 5 changes of air an hour.
Could eight people have cared for 16,000 animals? There is an examination of what would be required to care for each kind of animal. Mr. Woodmaroppe looks at the requirements for feeding, watering, exercising, and waste disposal. He uses information from farms and circuses rather zoos as critics of Noah’s Ark prefer to do. After considering the requirements of the animals the conclusion is that all of this was possible within a 10 hour work day.
The belief that Noah’s Ark was real is supported by our (limited) knowledge of ancient ship building techniques. Seaworthiness studies have been carried out by engineers competent in the field and have shown that Noah’s Ark was seaworthy for the conditions considered possible for the event. An examination of animal keeping shows that the necessary animals could be housed and cared for within the dimensions given for the Ark and that there was sufficient time for the eight people of Noah’s family to provide that care. Thus Noah’s Ark is shown to be plausible from the aspects of shipbuilding, seaworthiness and caring for the animals.