An expedition party of six men brought back four samples of plank-like wood from a foot to eighteen inches long found at the edge of a glacier some 13,000 feet above sea level on the slopes of Mount Ararat, near Istanbul, Turkey.
The party was led by Harry Crawford, a Seventh-day Adventist veteran of six previous expeditions to the mountain region. He said the wood was found July 31 and August 2 near the spot similar pieces of hewn timber believed to be about 4,000 years old (according to carbon tests) were found by French industrialist Fernand Navarra in 1955.
The search team, financed privately and sponsored by the Scientific Exploration and Archaeological Research Foundation (SEARCH), was composed of men of various skills.Expedition members were Crawford, of Denver; Fred Lee, a photographer and illustrator for SEARCH in Washington, D. C.; Ralph Lenton, an explorer for the Arctic Institute of North America, Washington, D. C.; Hugo Neuburg, a physicist and glaciologist; Navarra; and his son, Fernand Navarra, Jr. Not all are orthodox Christians, nor does the team make any claim that the wood is indeed the remains of Noah’s ark. But the discovery has excited reputable scientists and archaeologists. Tests to determine the nature and age of the wood are being conducted in France, Turkey, and the United States.
Team member Fred Lee said the wood was found buried in ice and rock in a spillway where water was flowing out from under a small glacier. “We believe the wood is the same consistency and grain structure as the samples found by Navarra,” Lee said.
The party rented a minibus and driver at Ancra, then took ponies up the lower slopes of the 17,000-foot twin-peaked mountain from a base camp. They back-packed to an upper camp well above the timber line and just below the snow level at 12,000 feet, according to explorer Ralph Lenton. He said the mountain—which is on the border of the Soviet Union and faces Iran and Syria on the south and east—appears to be volcanic in origin.
If future exploration reveals that the wood is from a ship, a host of biblical, historical, and geological problems will have to be reassessed and answered.
Dr. William F. Albright of Johns Hopkins University, a world-renowned archaeologist and authority on ancient languages, scoffs at the idea the ark may be lying under the glacier. He told CHRISTIANITY TODAY there is no basis “either in biblical geography or in later tradition” for the claim that Mount Ararat (the mountain bearing this name in modern times) is the location of the settling of the ark. (Genesis 8:4 says the ark “rested … upon the mountains of Ararat.”)
Further, Albright argues there isn’t a trace of physical evidence that there was a flood of worldwide proportions around 2000 B.C. He completely dismissed the theory that the pieces of wood could be from the ark, noting that the remains of the ark, in his opinion, could not be at such a high elevation.
Robert Faylor, director of the Arctic Institute of North America, admits there could be glaciological problems in dating the wood as recent as 4,000 years. The Ice Age is commonly believed to have been much longer ago. But the Arctic Institute thought enough of the venture to release Lenton for the expedition and to lend exploration equipment to the party without charge.
“We need objective appraisal to strengthen the findings,” Faylor said. “I can’t explain how wood that size and age could get to that height.… Whatever is there is going to be of great archaeological interest.”
SEARCH plans further explorations next summer. Lee believes about one million cubic yards of ice and rock will have to be removed to reveal what—if anything—lies beneath.
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