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Considering Noah's Ark

Updated on November 24, 2013
A new idea of Noah's Ark with wind vane.
A new idea of Noah's Ark with wind vane. | Source

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.

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.

A more traditional Noah's Ark.
A more traditional Noah's Ark. | Source

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.


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    • barrydan profile image

      barrydan 4 years ago from Calgary, Alberta, Canada

      Thank you for your comment Celafoe. You have raised a couple of issues which we as christians need to be careful of. Sensational discoveries which purport to prove the Biblical narrative need to be carefully investigated. As of today there are at least two competing claims for the discovery of Noah’s Ark, neither of which supports the claims that you mention. The fact that there are rival claims shows that definitive evidence for the discovery of Noah’s Ark is still lacking.

      A second issue is where did Noah’s Ark land? Genesis states that it rested “upon the mountains of Ararat.” Mount Ararat, which is generally known as the landing place of the Ark is considered by young earth geologists to be a post-flood volcano, and therefore not the landing place of the Ark. Ararat of the past is also known as Urartu, a region to the southeast of Mount Ararat. It is likely that it is in this region that the Ark made its landing. The Zagreb Mountains of Iran are also considered by some to be the area where the Ark may have rested. The mountains of Pakistan is a new suggestion to me and I cannot comment on that claim.

      Careful research has gone into the Biblical account of Noah’s Ark, research which allows us to present the Gospel and the Bible with confidence. As presenters then, we must be careful of what we present so that we do not discredit the Gospel with sensational evidence.

    • celafoe profile image

      charlie 4 years ago from From Kingdom of God living on Planet earth. between the oceans

      not only that but the ark has been found, the first time in the 1930s. there were 2 expeditions to it before it was closed off. there are also pictures from space of it. it is is located in the mountains of pakistan and their government (muslim) will not allow anyone into the area. There also was a movie with pictures of the actual ark in the 1960s I think it was. It is real and one day near the very end of this world as we know it and i believe it will be opened for all to see along with many other signs and wonders

    • barrydan profile image

      barrydan 5 years ago from Calgary, Alberta, Canada

      Thank you for your comment Diane. I believe proof is a conclusion we reach about the evidence. I present the evidence to help people think about the Bible, I pray they'll come to the same conclusion we have. I'm glad you enjoyed reading.

    • Diane Stephenson profile image

      Diane Stephenson 5 years ago

      Excellent article. You have covered pretty much all the arguments against the ark's existence. Though I believe the Biblical account without proof I still enjoy to read about the proof that scientists come up with. I don't believe that science proves the Bible, rather the contrary, but I do believe it backs it up. Thanks for sharing.

    • barrydan profile image

      barrydan 5 years ago from Calgary, Alberta, Canada

      Thank you for your comment Dave. I thought I had made it clear that I believed in the Ark of Noah and that God had instructed him on its construction. But not everyone does believe.

      It has been my experience that Christians are looking for good responses to the criticisms made of the Bible and if they don't get them they begin to doubt. Hebrews 12:12-13 says Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. This article was my attempt to make a straight path. According to the Christians at Answers in Genesis over 60% of the young people in the Church today will not remain till their 30's.

      Matthew 18:12-14 records Jesus concern for the one out of a hundred, I believe that I then must be concerned for the 60 out of a hundred. In Exodus 19 God gives the people of Israel a reason to believe Moses, in 1 Corinthians 15:5-7 Paul provides a list of eyewitnesses to corroborate the resurrection of Jesus. Giving reasons for our belief is biblical and it is commanded, 1 Peter 3:15. If only one of a hundred is helped, then we have reason to praise the Lord.

    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 5 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      So what is your problem with the Ark of Noah. God is all knowing and all powerful. God instructs Noah on exactly how to construct the ark and what materials to use.

      Do you think that you can out think or out plan God? I think not.