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A review by Alan Towsey (the Skeptic, (11:4 p.25) of The Discovery of Noah's Ark by David Fasold - Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1990

David Fasold is a former merchant marine officer and marine salvage expert, and in his own words "a renegade ex-fundamentalist from the Plymouth Brethren", who nevertheless retains a firm belief in the literal truth of the early chapters of Genesis. Perhaps the best way to sum up his book is to quote the summary from the Introduction by Charles Berlitz (that name alone should be enough to set the alarm bells ringing!):

The true Ark, he claims, was photographed from the air in 1959 after a mud slide uncovered a stone formation closely resembling a ship. The stone shape of a ship is not on Ararat but twelve miles away on a lower range. The dimensions of the ship are almost identical to the biblical description of the Ark: approximately 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high - except for the height - but the stone ship is still rising from the enveloping solidified mud. Fasold claims the ship is a real ship, not fossilised but made of reeds covered with cement. As we now know, cement was used thousands of years before Rome in different parts of the Middle East.

During his years of on-the-spot research, Fasold has been assisted by scientists who include a Los Alamos specialist and a radar field technician. They have used the most sensitive radar devices that can detect formations and mineral content, not only under water but under land, up to a depth of forty feet, as well. Starting with frequency generators to determine metal concentration of spikes inside wooden beams, he traced thirteen bow-to-stern interior divisions and nine interior bulkhead-to-bulkhead supports. A more detailed search with sub-surface interface radar revealed clear outlines of closed sections, beams and cross-beams, collapsed decks, iron and other metals used in clamps and pins at approximately eighteen to twenty inch intervals. The discovery of the inner plan of the stone shape of a gigantic ship could not have been ascertained without digging into the shape, except by using the sub-surface radar. Here we have an example of modern technology revealing history that has not been generally accepted as such, obscured up till now by the mists of legend and time.

The huge drag stones used on ancient ships have been found on a plateau several miles away, possibly dropped there when the ship started to go aground. The Ark survived because of its cement covering and lay under layers of frozen mud until it surfaced in 1948.

The discovery of this stone ship and ongoing tests over, and soon inside, the vessel have created a world sensation, not only in archaeology but also in Middle East politics and the study of the world's lost history.

His researches on the spot were carried out, in the main, in 1985 (though the Ark was first discovered in 1948 by a Turkish farmer named Reshit - "I know a ship when I see one.") and are supported in the book by a mass of impressive and learned-sounding discussion and argument on pre-history, ages, identities, ancient texts in various languages, their correct interpretation, chemistry, maths and so on, even to linking Genesis with the Chinese, and quoting Velikovsky! The book is illustrated by photographs of the site etc. (personally, I could not see the slightest resemblance to a ship!) and many sketches and detailed plans, bulkheads, beams and all, of a large vessel shaped like the Mesopotamian reed boats made famous by Thor Heyerdahl.

Unfortunately, he does not seem to have been very successful in convincing the scientific world, for on his own admission in the Preface:

In the attempt to retrace our ancestors' footsteps to the door of the Ark itself, however attractive such a mission might appear, I have failed to interest the academic community at large in participating. Understandably, such a proposal raises serious doubts. But when an invitation is extended to view the remains of the antediluvian vessel high upon the mountains of Urartu, the response of science should be investigation pure and simple, not ridicule and scorn.

This is scarcely surprising, in view of a number of extraordinary claims he makes. I deal with just a few below.

To begin with, of course, he accepts the Flood as an historical event, one that literally covered the whole world, and Noah and his Ark likewise. I will not go into all the scientific objections to this - they have been well set out many times before; there is an excellent summary in the Skeptics' own publication, Creationism: an Australian Perspective. Fasold, of course, rejects these objections with the usual Creationist arguments - catastrophic changes to the contours of the Earth and so on. But I noticed one point that I have never seen challenged: Fasold says that, when God created "the firmament in the midst of the waters" which "divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament" (Gen 1:6-7), the "waters above the firmament" refer to the water in the atmosphere (even though Gen 1:8 says "God called the firmament Heaven" (or: sky), and that "when the windows of Heaven were opened" (Gen 7:11), this refers to heavy rain falling from the sky.

Now, according to the (now defunct) science digest Omega, May-June 1982, p. 32, if all the water in the atmosphere condensed simultaneously, this would cover the Earth to an average depth of 1" (2.5cm) - a calculation confirmed by Dr Macey in the Skeptic (Autumn 1991) on p 28.

Further, what all these people overlook is that the Hebrews conceived of the sky as a huge transparent dome holding up a great mass of water (after all, you can actually see it!). "Chambers English Dictionary" defines "firmament" as "the solid sphere in which the stars were thought to be fixed: the sky". The Hebrew word used here is RaQIa', which is defined in Brown, Driver and Briggs' "Hebrew Lexicon" as "The vault of Heaven or 'firmament'", regarded by the Hebrews as solid and supporting 'waters' above it." Now you can see that the reference to "the windows of Heaven (being) opened" makes good sense against this belief - some of the water "above the firmament" was allowed to pour through openings in the dome down on the Earth beneath.

The Egyptians held a similar belief - that the world was surrounded by a primordial ocean, which they called Nun (or Nu), sometimes personified as a self-begotten male and female god able to produce progeny, and which gave birth to their other gods. Wallis Budge (The Book of the Dead: Bell Publishing, NY, 1960, p133) writes:

Later still, the Egyptians came to the conclusion that the sky was nothing but a vast layer of water, and then their difficulties in explaining how the sun, moon and stars travelled across it disappeared, for they were quite certain in their minds that the celestial bodies traversed the sky in boats."

In this connection, Fasold identifies Noah with Nu - even though Nu appears in Egyptian mythology ages before the time of Noah by Fasold's or Biblical chronology - and Noah's son Shem with the Egyptian Imhotep!

One of Fasold's "proofs" that he had discovered the original Ark is that the measurements of the rock formation he found - which is how the geologists see it (even John Morris, geologist son of Henry Morris and now (according to Fasold) vice-president of the Institute for Creation Research - see p 33) - match exactly the measurements in cubits given in the Bible.

The problem here is that no-one knows for sure the exact length in modern units of a cubit. Basically, it was the distance from a man's elbow to the tip of the middle finger, and varied from country to country. Peake's Commentary on the Bible (1982, rev ed, p 37) says:

"Biblical metrology cannot pretend to an exactness which is denied it at many points by the ambiguity of the evidence." Corswant's Dictionary of Life in Bible Times (1956) says that an ordinary (Hebrew) cubit was about 18", a great cubit about 21"; the Egyptian cubit was the same, and the Babylonian 19.8" and 22" respectively. Harper's Bible Dictionary (1985) puts the Hebrew cubit between 17.5" and 20".

None of this deters Fasold. He has worked out, by a process of abstruse reasoning, that the Ark was built to measurements determined by the measuring reed in Ezekiel 40:5, which he calculates as giving a cubit of 20.6" (p 25). Now, of course, if you work out your own cubit length, obviously you can make it fit whatever you want it to.

Furthermore, Fasold relates the measuring reed mentioned above to the numerical value of pi (
pi_pic_blue.gif (909 bytes)). The problem here is this: if the angel concerned knew the exact value of pi (3.1416..), why didn't he correct the Hebrews, who took it to be simply 3, as you can check for yourself in 2 Chron 4:2!

In trying to reconcile some of the problems concerning the ages and other times given in Genesis, Fasold suggests (following Velikovsky!) that the year was shorter in Noah's day, consisting of ten lunar months of 30 days, 300 days to a year. Unfortunately for this idea, as far back as calendar records go, the year has been (approximately) 365.25 days in length (see Bickerman: Chronology of the Ancient World, Thames & Hudson, 1980), and Whitrow in What is Time? (Thames & Hudson, 1972) points out (p. 83) that study of fossil corals indicates that 600 million years ago, around Cambrian times, the day was less than 21 hours long and has been slowly lengthening since then. This has been confirmed by further work on fossilised bacteria in stromatolites in Northern Australia, which revealed that 850 million years ago the bacteria had deposited 435 layers of limestone sediment in a year (researchers studying living stromatolites in Australia and America in recent years have discovered that the bacteria add 365 new layers of limestone in one year). (See the Sydney Morning Herald, 15 Dec, 1990.) We now know that the Earth's rotation is being constantly slowed by the pull of the lunar tides, so that the day is presently lengthening by about 13 seconds every 100 years. Shorter days would, as indicated above, mean more, not fewer days in a year in the past. The only way in which we could have the significantly shorter years required for Fasold's hypothesis would be for the Earth to be much closer to the sun.

Needless to say, there is no evidence for this and the consensus among astronomers is that the length of the year has not altered significantly during the life of the Earth. Certainly any changes in the dynamics of the solar system in the time scale proposed by Fasold (4680 years) should still be obvious.

Unfortunately for we Skeptics, the site of the discovery has now been "officially declared the landing place of Noah's Ark by the Turkish government", and is no longer accessible for further investigation by foreign scientists. What a pity!

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