Some time ago we asked Dr. Wood to investigate the facts concerning the alleged discovery of Noah's ark. Careful checking on the various points mentioned in this article was made by calls on authorities at the Washington Cathedral, the Catholic University, various branches of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, and the Ohio Chemicals and Manufacturing Company. We all benefit through this careful inquiry. It is to be regretted that some pulpit and press utterances among us echoed the story as a fact. This episode should serve as a deterrent to easy acceptance of any similar allegation in days to come.—EDITOR.
IN 1941 and 1942, various religious papers in this country printed articles concerning the supposed finding of Noah's ark. Among these periodicals may be listed The Kings Herald (November, 1941), Springfield, Missouri; Prophecy (March, 1942), Los Angeles, California ; and Defender of the Faith (October, 1942), Intercession City, Florida. In substance the story was as follows:
A Russian aviator by the name of Roskovitsky, who with his companion was stationed on an airfield near Mount Ararat just before the Russian Revolution, allegedly was given a plane with a new supercharger to make some altitude tests. After climbing to fourteen thousand feet and leveling off to become adjusted to the altitude, he saw ahead of him the snow-capped peak of Ararat some three thousand feet above him. Having heard that it had never been scaled since 700 B.C., he set out toward it. In circling the crystal-white dome he slid down the south side of the mountain and saw below him a glacial lake and the old hulk of a ship, which, upon further investigation by special companies of soldiers sent out by the czar, was believed to be Noah's ark.
According to the Biblical Archaeologist, December, 1942, page 59, two of the periodicals above mentioned printed retractions of this story, and there was little more heard of it until in March, 1945, there appeared in Magazine Digest—a Toronto, Canada, publication—a restatement of the story with the following additions :
First, in 1883, violent earthquakes were supposed to have dislodged huge cakes of ice from the very summit of Ararat, and residents of the district had seen the ship protruding from one of these blocks.
Second, an "archdeacon, Noun i of Jerusalem and Babylon," later climbed to the place of discovery, examined the vessel, and made a statement to the effect that this was surely the ark of Noah.
Realizing the remarkableness of such a discovery, were it a fact, I began an attempt to check the accuracy of various statements made in the two sets of articles, with the following results :
1. In The Defender of the Faith, October, 1942, page 12, it is stated that the alleged discovery "was in the days just before the Russian Revolution." Inasmuch as the Russian Revolution took place in March, 1917, and the author of the article states that the time of the discovery was in "August," it would date the incident back at least to August, 1916. He goes on to say that the time was in August, a very hot season, and how they longed for some of the snow they saw on the peak of Ararat. "Then the miracle happened. The captain walked in and announced that plane number seven had its supercharger installed and was ready for altitude tests."
But note: The New International Encyclopedia, volume t, page 185, dates the experiments with-superchargers in aircraft to a period about five years later, on September 28, 1921. when Lieutenant McCready, at Dayton, Ohio, flew to 37,800 feet with a plane equipped with a supercharger.
2. The article goes on, "Needless to say, we wasted no time in getting on our parachutes, strapping on our oxygen cans, and doing all the half dozen other things that have to be done before going up."
Concerning the use of parachutes, the 14th edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica, volume 17, page 252, states that during the last days of the war in 1918 German aviators were known frequently to use them, but after the war there was little done to complet&the use of parachutes until about 1921, when British and American aviators began experimenting with a parachute that could be conveniently carried by a pilot. It is well knowgthat oxygen cans were not used by aviators to any extent until experiments began in high-altitude flying after World War I.
3. The article goes on to say, "As I looked down at the great stone battlements surrounding the lower part of this mountain, I remembered having heard that it had never been climbed since the year 700 B.C."
The 11th edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica, volume 2, page 320, lists eleven different dates from 1829 to 1893 when parties climbed Ararat.
4. An article in Magazine Digest, March, 1945, says : "Even though in its present location, the ark was sealed in a solid preserving coating of ice for ten months of the year, the thawing and weathering for even two months of every twelve would long since have rotted the hulk into nothingness. But old residents explained that, in 1883, violent earthquakes had dislodged huge blocks of ice from the very summit of Ararat. And, from one of these blocks, wondering mountaineers had seen this hull protruding one late summer when the brief 'summer' came."—Page 67.
There is no indication or record of any earthquake as mentioned here. There was some tradition that an earthquake in 1840 caused a precipitous fall of rock which destroyed a village at the base of the mountain, but even this evidence is not satisfactory. (See Encyclopaedia Britannica, iith ed., vol. 2, p. 320.)
5. Lastly, this same article says, "Another remarkable confirmation came later from Archdeacon Nonni of Jerusalem and Babylon, a learned and noted traveler. After exploring along the Euphrates, he reached Mount Ararat, and, with his guides and associates, climbed to the resting place of the ark. After thoroughly examining the vessel, he pronounced: 'I am very positive we are beholding the ark of Noah. "—Page 68.
An examination of the yearbooks for the Church of England from 1942 back indicates that there was the office of archdeacon for Palestine, Syria, and Trans-jordan from 1926 to the present. But this archdeacon's office did not include the district of Babylon, and furthermore, the names of the men who have received the appointment of archdeacon are all thoroughly English names, the last two being Stewart and Maxwell. Before 1926 this office was nonexistent. And there is, according to the Catholic University, no such office in either the Greek or Roman Church.
"The article was brought to our attention as a result of its appearance in Life Digest of Australia. . . . This article was discussed by the members of Magazine Digest's editorial board, and it was concluded that the interesting possibilities it suggested, as well . as the reputable source of its origin, would warrant its inclusion in the magazine, despite the fact that it would not be possible to check back to original sources for confirmation of each fact."
A letter was next addressed to the editorial board of Life Digest in Melbourne, Australia, and some time later a reply came from them, saying, "Our article, which was reprinted in the Magazine Digest, was taken from Answers, an English weekly, and our subsequent inquiries have failed to bring to light any additional facts."
Copies of the periodical Answers could not be obtained in the Congressional Library. Therefore, we sent a request direct to Pastor W. L. Emmerson, editor in our publishing house in London, asking him to trace the matter for us at that end of the line. A letter has just been received from him, saying:
"I wrote immediately on receipt of your letter, to the editor of Answers and received no reply. After waiting a while I wrote again to him. On this occasion I received a reply to the effect that the article had been written by one of their regular contributors, and if I would write him a letter, care of Answers, he would pass it on. I immediately did this, but have had no further word. I rather think that this article is just a rehash of the story some years ago, and that the contributor in question is loath to confess this fact."
The foregoing is sufficient, I am sure, to convince any reader of the falsity of such a report concerning the ark. Inasmuch as the top of Mount Ararat is in perpetual snow, the movement of these ice fields down the side of the mountain would be such as would expose anything embedded in the ice during the centuries. It would seem most inadvisable to accept this sensational story and give it publicity until it has been well authenticated by scientific archaeological research, thus far lacking.