Raider of Noah's Lost Ark
HONOLULU — A Catholic activist from Hawaii has announced plans for an expedition this summer to locate and explore Noah's Ark on the forbidding slopes of Mount Ararat in Turkey.
Daniel McGivern, president of Shamrock-The Trinity Corp., told a Washington press conference in late May that the site of the vessel described in the Old Testament has been identified by satellite photography. McGivern said last year's heat wave that killed thousands of people across Europe also reduced the ice field atop Mount Ararat, exposing the ark to be photographed.
“I am 90% certain we have found it, but we won't know for sure till we get up there,” he told the Register.
However, a man who has led several searches for the ark warned that the 17,000-foot Mount Ararat is “huge and dangerous.”
“The Ahora Gorge [where the search will focus] is big enough to hold the Grand Canyon twice over,” added Dr. John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research in Santee, Calif. “The rock is rotten and landslides are frequent. We were attacked by wolves and bears and shot at.”
Moreover, he noted, “It is a staging area for Kurdish terrorists.”
McGivern, a journalist turned marketing mogul, said he expected to recover the $900,000 cost of the project by making a movie.
“Trinity is a for-profit corporation,” he acknowledged.
But the current expedition has a much more important goal, he said.
“It is, frankly, to bring people to faith in God and his Church,” McGivern said. “It is an unbelieving world out there.”
McGivern, who has led both pro-life and pro-family groups in Hawaii and testified at the state Legislature against Hawaii's euthanasia law, said he hopes the project's participants will include Jews, Muslims and Christians, since all three religions share a belief in the scriptural account of how Noah built the ark to preserve a remnant of humanity and other living creatures from a great flood.
“We want Jews, Christians and Muslims on the same rope depending on each other,” he said. At the same time, he is looking for archeologists, scientists and forensic experts both for the climb itself and for helicopter-borne parties to examine the site once it is located.
The expedition will be led by Ahmet Ali Arslan, an English professor at Seljuk University in Konya, Turkey, and an experienced Ararat climber.
The expedition has the moral support of the Institute of Creation Research. The institute is the ideological heart of the creation science movement and its efforts to place scientific explanations of life's origins in public-school science curriculums that are compatible with Old Testament creation accounts in Genesis.
The institute's Morris, who holds a doctorate in geology, said the discovery of the ark would be the death knell for evolution, based as it is on a uniformly gradual development of new life forms from old over millions of years.
“A catastrophic flood means the basic assumption of uniformity is wrong,” Morris said, because the deposit of fossils in the “geological column” could not have been as orderly as science presumes and because all existing life would have had to develop in only a few thousand years.
Morris noted that virtually all human cultures retain folkloric memories of a great flood, “because we all descended from Noah.” Also, “there is a great deal of evidence geologically,” Morris contended, but it is presently misinterpreted by most scientists. The discovery of a wooden vessel on Mount Ararat would lead geologists to reinterpret the geological data accordingly.
‘Our faith has gotten along for thousands of years without having a ship on the mountain.’
Skeptics abound. The Internet's atheist, humanist and agnostic sites were abuzz within days of McGivern's announcement with derisive comments related to failed expeditions of the past.
Fred Edwords, editorial director for the American Humanist Association, said that while he expected this “quixotic adventure” to be a flop along with earlier ones, it wouldn't shake the faith of human-ists even if a ship were to turn up.
“I know that creation-science people believe that proof of the flood would disprove evolution,” he said. “But humanism doesn't necessarily depend on evolution. Finding this boat wouldn't destroy the whole geological column because there are so many problems with the flood-laid geological model they propose as an alternative.”
If the remnants of a vessel were to be found, Edwords suggested, “it could be some kind of a monument put up there in the Middle Ages. But in all likelihood what they've spotted on their satellite images are some rock outcroppings. And I hope they do find them so that we can put it all to rest.”
Father James Hanrahan, principal of St. Mark's Theology College in Vancouver, British Columbia, doubted that discovery of an ark would have much impact on Catholic faith.
“It would be profoundly interesting to find a ship on Mount Ararat,” he said. “But I don't know how anyone would know it was Noah's Ark. The fact is, our faith has gotten along for thousands of years without having a ship on the mountain, so I don't think it would be very important now.”
Father Hanrahan said the Catholic Church does not teach that Old Testament accounts such as Noah's Ark are historically true. Instead, he said, “They are literally true in the sense intended by God and the human author.”
The story of Noah, Father Hanrahan added, is true in the sense that “Noah is a figure of Christ who brings salvation to the world. He is meant to describe to us the constant saving love of God.”
McGivern said several years ago he made a list of 10 things he wanted to do with his life, with the finding of Noah's Ark at the top. He created Shamrock-The Trinity Corp. to accomplish his goals and expects the revenue from the movie to finance his next project.
What will that be? “I'll tell,” McGivern replied, “when I get to it.”
Steve Weatherbe writes from Victoria, British Columbia.
- June 6-12, 2004