A century after the gold rush, a not unrelated compulsion is spreading. The stricken are willing to undergo amazing hardships in their quest. Their object? To recover the ark of Noah, thought to lodge on the remote mountains of Greater Ararat in eastern Turkey.

Even relatively sane and sedate professors have been bitten by this bug. On August 17, 1970, at 1:30 P.M. I attained the incredibly difficult 16,946-foot peak of Ararat while engaged in this search, and my eleven-year-old son came within 550 meters of the summit, thus becoming the youngest Westerner ever to reach that altitude on the mountain. We shall doubtless be at it again next month (ark-searching must go on in August, when the ice cap recedes to the maximum).

Why would anyone give up a glorious Alsatian summertime to alternately boil and freeze on a mountain so high that often one can take only ten or fifteen steps before sitting down to recover his breath in the rarefied atmosphere? The answer: because of the tremendous amount of solid evidence that on the mountain the Turks call Agri Dagh, the Mountain of Agony, a substantial vestige of the ark of Noah—if not the ark’s massive hull itself—remains to this very day, frozen in the glacial ice.

Here I do not refer primarily to the accounts of the ark’s survival set down in biblical and classical times. These accounts (from Josephus, the Greek church father Epiphanius, the Koran, Marco Polo, and other sources) and nineteenth-century discoveries of what were said to be ark relics can certainly whet the appetite; but a full-fledged case of ark fever, at least for a member of the hidebound academic community, requires a more substantial base in contemporary testimony. To mention even a major proportion of the recent ...

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