From at least the time of Eusebius (c. 275 – 339 AD - bishop of Caesarea in
Palaestina) to the present day, the search for the physical remains of Noah's
Ark has held a fascination for Christians. Although Jews and Muslims share a
religious tradition that includes Noah's Ark, adherents of these faiths have not
been as interested in searching for physical evidence of this supposed relic.
Noah's Ark is the huge vessel described in the Bible and Quran. In Hebrew
Bible/Old Testament book of Genesis, by the ark the Hebrew God saved
Noah, together with the other seven members of his family, plus
representatives of all the species of animals and birds, from a cataclysmic
flood with which he wished to exterminate all other life on Earth. It is
described as 300 cubits long, or approximately 450 feet (137 m) -
considerably longer than any wooden vessel ever built in historical times.
According to Genesis 8:4 the Ark came to rest "in the mountains of Ararat."
The motivation of the searchers is summed up in this quotation from the
Institute for Creation Research: "If the flood of Noah indeed wiped out the
entire human race and its civilization, as the Bible teaches, then the Ark
constitutes the one remaining major link to the pre-flood World. No significant
artifact could ever be of greater antiquity or importance.... [with] tremendous
potential impact on the creation-evolution (including theistic evolution)
controversy." The writer might equally have added the implications for
geology, cosmology, and almost every other branch of modern science.
The search has been largely American, supported by evangelical and
millenarian churches, and sustained by ongoing popular interest expressed
through faith-based magazines and lecture tours, videos, occasional (and often
sensationalist) television specials, and, more recently, the Internet.
Ark searchers have had little to guide them to the Ark beyond the Genesis
mention of the "mountains of Ararat." By the middle of the 19th century,
archaeologists had identified a 1st millennium BC kingdom and region of
Urartu, contemporaneous with the Assyrian empire and the early kingdoms of
Judah and Israel, and located in the mountains of present-day Armenia and
In the 4th century AD, Faustus of Byzantium (Armenian historian of the 5th
century) was apparently the first to use the name "Ararat" to refer to a specific
mountain, rather than a region, where the Ark could be seen, and told how an
angel had brought a holy relic from the vessel to a pious bishop who had been
unable to complete the ascent. The Byzantine emperor Heraclius is said to
have made the trip in the 7th century, but less well-connected pilgrims had to
brave uninhabited wastelands, rugged terrain, snowfields, glaciers, blizzards,
and, in the habitable areas, brigands, wars, and ever-suspicious Ottoman
Marco Polo (1254-1324) wrote in his book The Travels of Marco Polo that:
In the heart of Greater Armenia is a very high mountain , shaped like a cube
(or cup), on which Noah's ark is said to have rested, whence it is called the
Mountain of Noah's Ark. It [the mountain] is so broad and long that it takes
more than two days to go around it. On the summit the snow lies so deep all
the year round that no one can ever climb it; this snow never entirely melts, but
new snow is for ever falling on the old, so that the level rises.
Not until the 19th century was the region settled enough, and Westerners
welcome enough, for exploration by well-heeled Ark-seekers to begin in
earnest. In 1829 Dr. Freidrich Parrott, who had made an ascent of Greater
Ararat (highest peak of Ararat massif), wrote in his Journey to Ararat that "all
the Armenians are firmly persuaded that Noah's Ark remains to this very day
on the top of Ararat, and that, in order to preservation [sic], no human being is
allowed to approach it." In 1876 James Bryce, historian, statesman,
diplomat, explorer, and Professor of Civil Law at Oxford, climbed above the
tree line and found a slab of hand-hewn timber, four feet long and five inches
thick, which he identified as being from the Ark. In 1883 the British
Prophetic Messenger and others reported that Turkish commissioners
investigating avalanches had seen the Ark. Activity fell off in the 20th
century. In the Cold War Ararat found itself on the highly sensitive
Turkish/Soviet border and in the midst of Kurdish separatist activities, so that
explorers were likely to find themselves in extremely hazardous situations.
Former astronaut James Irwin led two expeditions to Ararat in the 1980s, was
kidnapped once, and like others found no tangible evidence of the Ark. "I've
done all I possibly can," he said, "but the Ark continues to elude us."
Activity fell off in the 20th century. In the Cold War Ararat found itself on the
highly sensitive Turkish/Soviet border and in the midst of Kurdish separatist
activities, so that explorers were likely to find themselves in extremely
hazardous situations. Former astronaut James Irwin led two expeditions to
Ararat in the 1980s, was kidnapped once, and like others found no tangible
evidence of the Ark. "I've done all I possibly can," he said, "but the Ark
continues to elude us."
In 2001 the Turkish government re-opened Mount Ararat to climbers.
However, the government requires a climbing permit and the use of a certified
Turkish trekking guide. It takes approximately two months to obtain climbing
By the beginning of the 21st century two main location candidates for
exploration had emerged: the so-called Ararat anomaly near the main summit
of Ararat (an "anomaly" in that it shows on aerial and satellite images as a dark
blemish on the snow and ice of the peak), and the separate site at Durupinar
near Dogubayazit, 18 miles south of the Greater Ararat summit. The Durupinar
site was heavily promoted by adventurer and former nurse-anaesthetist Ron
Wyatt in the 1980s and 1990s, and consists of a large boat-shaped formation
jutting out of the earth and rock. It has the advantage over the Great Ararat
site of being approachable—while hardly a major tourist attraction, it receives
a steady stream of visitors. Geologists have identified the Durupinar site as a
natural formation, but Wyatt's Ark Discovery Institute continues to
champion its claims.
In 2004 Honolulu-based businessman Daniel McGivern announced he would
finance a $900,000 expedition to the peak of Greater Ararat in July that year
to investigate the "Ararat anomaly"—he had previously paid for commercial
satellite images of the site. After much initial fanfare he was refused
permission by the Turkish authorities, as the summit is inside a restricted
military zone. The expedition was subsequently labelled a "stunt" by National
Geographic News, which pointed out that the expedition leader, a Turkish
academic named Ahmet Ali Arslan, had previously been accused of faking
photographs of the Ark.
In June 2006, Bob Cornuke of the fundamentalist Christian Bible Archeology
Search and Exploration Institute (BASE) took a team of 14 American
"business, law, and ministry leaders" to Iran to visit a site in the Alborz
Mountains purported to be a possible resting place of the Ark. The team did
not include any archaeologists or geologists among its members.
The team claims to have discovered an "object" 13,000 feet above sea level,
which had the appearance of blackened petrified wooden beams, and was
"about the size of a small aircraft carrier" (400 ft long), and supposedly
consistent with the dimensions provided in Genesis of 300 cubits by 50 cubits.
 The team also claimed to find fossilised sea creatures inside the petrified
wood, and in the immediate vicinity of the site. One member of the team
claims that 'a Houston lab used by the Smithsonian' tested some beams and
confirmed they were petrified wood containing fossilised sea animals, but
the name of the laboratory was not given. No one outside the expedition has
offered independent confirmation, and apart from a few purported beams, no
photographic images of this supposed Ark in its entirety have been made
available (though short video segments have been made available). The team's
consensus on the "object" is not absolute; Reg Lyle, another expedition
member, described the find as appearing to be "a basalt dike". 
It is the official position of the BASE Institute that Iran was the logical resting
place of the Ark. Their website does not definitely claim the object to be the
Ark, but concludes that it is "a candidate".