By: Warren Gray
Copyright © 2023
“For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth…
everything that is on the earth shall die…For forty days,
the flood kept coming…The waters flooded the earth
for a hundred and fifty days…the Ark came to
rest on the mountains of Ararat.”
— Genesis 6:14 to 7:4.
This is the first in a four-part global exploration series of articles about four of the world’s greatest mysteries. During my 21-year Air Force career, I was stationed at Incirlik Air Base in south central Turkey from 1994 to 1996. While assigned there, I read a fascinating, new, breakthrough book – The Incredible Discovery of Noah’s Ark by Charles E. Sellier and David W. Balsiger (1995), which offered compelling scientific and eyewitness evidence that the Biblical Noah’s Ark probably existed, even to this very day, upon the higher glacial slopes of Mount Ararat, Turkey.
U.S. military personnel were not permitted to travel that far east for two primary reasons: The enormous mountain stood almost precisely on the easternmost border between the NATO alliance (Turkey) and the former Soviet Union (Armenia), so our safety would be in question in such a remote, lawless, and contentious region only a few years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. And secondly, the local presence of Kurdish PKK terrroists would make the trip even more dangerous. So, I would have to perform significant research from a respectful distance to learn more about this enduring mystery. Could any parts of this absolutely amazing story really be true?
Mount Ararat is a snow-capped, dormant volcano in far eastern Turkey. It is the highest peak in the country and named Ağri Daği (the “Mountain of Pain”) in Turkish. It’s 16,854 feet tall and 25 miles in diameter, and it has the largest physical landmass of any mountain in the world! Mount Ararat is only nine miles from Iran and 18 miles from Armenia. The enormous massif actually consists of two peaks – Greater Ararat and Lesser Ararat, hence the Biblical reference to “the mountains of Ararat.”
Greater Ararat has a 17-square-mile ice cap and a permanent glacier on top that averages 350 feet thick. Strangely, and perhaps tellingly, there is not a single tree on or near the mountain and very few trees within a 200-mile radius. Apollo 15 astronaut Colonel James Irwin, an Ararat explorer who led five expeditions there before his death in 1991, observed that, “There is a strangeness about Ararat…there are no trees. The entire immensity of Ararat is devoid of a single tree!”
The mountain is extremely remote and rugged, with no roads, no vehicle trails, and only a few barely discernible foot paths up its steep slopes. The easiest ascent is up a 30-degree angle for some distance, increasing to 46 degrees near Parrot Glacier and up to 63 degrees in higher areas such as the upper slope of Ahora Gorge. That gorge is a 5,988-foot-deep chasm created by the great earthquake of July 1840, which destroyed the nearby village of Ahora. The higher that a person climbs, the greater the danger from hazardous ice and snow. It’s an extremely treacherous mountain by any standard.
The very dramatic story of Noah’s Ark is told in significant detail in the Bible, providing us today with exacting measurements and a vivid description of this great wooden vessel: “Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make rooms in the ark and cover it inside and out with pitch…the length of the ark shall be 300 cubits, its width 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark on its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks. For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth.
“Noah was 600 years old when the floodwaters came on the earth…For 40 days, the flood kept coming on the earth…The waters rose and covered the mountains…Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out…The waters flooded the earth for 150 days…the Ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat…Noah then…saw that the surface of the ground was dry…Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, ‘I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants…Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood…I have set my bow (rainbow) in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.’”
The first modern ascent of Mount Ararat took place in 1829, by German-born Doctor Friedrich W. Parrot. Sightings of an Ark-like object increased exponentially during and after World War Two due to the use of aircraft and helicopters. In 1957, U.S. Air Force U-2C Dragon Lady reconnaissance aircraft began photographing the mountain in search of the Ark. Those images are still highly classified! Why?!
The CIA began monitoring an Ark-like object via KH-9 and LANDSAT satellites from 1973. Ultra-fast SR-71A Blackbird reconnaissance jets photographed the mountain beginning in 1974. On December 31, 1977, there was an Ark sighting by President Jimmy Carter and multiple eyewitnesses aboard Air Force One.
Noted photographer Ronald Bennett was on the aircraft that day, and he wrote that, “We were enroute from Poland to Tehran to attend a New Year’s Day celebration given by the shah (king)…if we looked down, we would see Noah’s Ark…There…clearly visible, was a large, dark boat. It was partially covered with ice and snow. I’m convinced, based on what I saw there, that it was Noah’s Ark.”
In 1985, Air Force Major General Ralph Havens candidly admitted to Ark researcher Doctor Elfred Lee that the Air Force had seen and photographed an Ark-like object before. (This author had just worked for General Havens in Germany two years previously, and he was quite credible and professional.) In 1989, the French SPOT satellite imaged a huge wooden object on Mount Ararat, and Doctor Ahmet Ali Arslan climbed up mountain on foot and photographed what certainly appeared to be an ark in the deep snow atop Ahora Gorge.
Meanwhile, hundreds of various expeditions on foot up the mountain began in earnest in 1701 and 1720, with at least 42 known expeditions in the 1800s, 123 more in the 1900s (mostly by American explorers), and at least 10 to 20 more in the early 2000s.
Assuming the Biblical description is accurate, Noah’s Ark would have measured approximately 450 feet long by 75 feet wide and 45 feet tall (three stories), based upon the standard Hebrew cubit of 18 inches. That’s the size of a small World War Two aircraft carrier! Many scientists believe that the Ark was most likely built in Shuruppak (now Rumaythah), Sumeria (Tigris and Euphrates Valley), Mesopotamia (Iraq), near Babylon, an ancient, riverside center of civilization with an abundance of cypress trees about 520 miles south of Mount Ararat.
According to Gene Faultisch, founder of the Chronology History Research Institute of Ruthven, Iowa, construction of the Ark began in 2465 B.C. and took 120 years. Noah and his family boarded with all the animals on May 12, 2345 B.C. and sealed the massive door behind them. The Great Flood began on May 14, 2345 B.C., and the rains continued for 40 days and nights, covering the entire Earth for 150 days. Noah and the animals left the Ark on May 13, 2344 B.C. and saw a rainbow overhead.
One of the earliest and most credible firsthand sightings was by George Hagopian, an eight-year-old Armenian boy who saw the Ark several times with his uncle above Ahora Gorge in 1902 to 1904. George climbed to the roof and walked on it. The uncle shot at the Ark with his rifle, but his bullets bounced off as if it were made of stone. He tried to pry off a piece with his knife, but failed. “I saw the Ark a second time…in 1904…I didn’t see any nails at all…It was unlike any other boat I have ever seen. It looked more like a flat-bottomed barge,” Hagopian told Doctor Elfred Lee in 1970. Hagopian took and passed a PSE (psychological stress devaluator – more accurate than a polygraph) test. He died in 1972.
In August 1916, military pilot Lieutenant Vladimir Roskovitsky reported that, “We were a group of Russian aviators…based on a temporary airfield about 25 miles northwest of Mount Ararat…we reached the altitude of 14,000 feet…(and) saw a wooden structure, colored black…and all along the top ran a structure about one meter high…as long as a house-block, and it could be compared to a modern, military ship…partly dismantled. There was a huge opening of a door…but the door was missing…we beat all speed records flying back to the airfield.”
This led to the Russian expedition of 1916 to 1917, when Czar Nicholas sent 150 men under Colonel Alexander Koor to study the object near the top of Ahora Gorge. Roskovitsky wrote that, “They made detailed measurements, drawings, and took many photographs…they saw hundreds of small rooms, and a couple with very high ceilings. Everything had been heavily caulked with a substance similar to wax…a skilled piece of work…To build the Ark had been used oleander wood, which belongs to the cypress family and does not rot…excellent condition.”
Feodor Frolovich was a surviving member of the Ark expedition – most expedition members were killed after the Bolshevik Revolution, and the report disappeared in an effort to conceal “any evidence in favor of the Christian faith.” In a 1994 Russian article in “Science and Religion” newspaper, his granddaughter, Galina Loshadkina told an amazing story: “I have to confirm the report! It’s true! Many of his group perished…My grandfather told me to the smallest detail what they saw, even drawing sketches.
“The Ark was enormous and unusual…it looked like a huge box with openings for ventilation on the top…they had taken many photos, and made all sorts of measurements, moreover they collected samples by scraping various sections. The caulk on the walls…looked like wax, but it was not…I well remember about oleander wood, which the Ark was made of.
“The detailed report of the expeditions was sent to the Czar together with the documents, the samples, and a list of the members of the group. In a very short time, the October Revolution broke out…For fear, he never told anybody the story of the expedition…‘Remember always that Noah’s Ark is not a myth. I saw it myself and these hands touched it. Remember very well that it is on Mount Ararat.’”
In 1943, Edward “Ed” Davis climbed Mount Ararat and recorded his experience for Doctor Elfred Lee in 1987: “That’s haunted me all my life…the ice on Ararat is melting to where you can see part of the Ark…Then I see it, a huge, rectangular, man-made structure, partly covered by a talas of ice and rock, lying on its side. At least 150 feet are clearly visible…where it’s been broken off, timbers are sticking out…down the canyon…the two pieces were once joined…Inside…I can see at least three floors…There’s no question in my mind what I saw on that mountain. I saw Noah’s Ark.” Davis took and passed a polygraph test.
In 1944, C-47A Skytrain pilot Vince Will flew over the mountain and saw the Ark resting on a ledge with a large drop-off below, exactly as George Hagopian had once described. He said, “There was a hole on the right side…I could see two decks through the hole…there was no question…I was looking at Noah’s Ark.”
Then, on June 17, 1949, an Air Force B-17 bomber on a low-level, reconnaissance mission flew over Mount Ararat at 14,000 feet altitude and took 23 photographs of an object called the “Ararat Anomaly” at 15,500 feet elevation. Only six of these images were ever released to the public. The remaining 17 photos are still classified “Secret.” Why?! No one has ever determined exactly what it was, but Frame 5 appears to show a broken, battered, wooden object with three prongs protruding in different directions.
In 1953, William Todd piloted a U.S. Navy AJ-2P Savage photoreconnaissance aircraft over Mount Ararat and reported that, “We noticed an object above the (Ahora) gorge, sticking out of the ice at a true altitude of 14,500 to 16,000 feet…lying on a little shelf protruding from ice and snow…It was a rectangular, slate-colored boat that we all claimed was Noah’s Ark…of huge size and was filled with ice and snow.
“It appeared more like a barge. Since we were professional photographers, we measured the photos using the formula scale…It turned out to be exactly 75 feet wide by 45 feet high…When we found out that it precisely matched Genesis, we were running around with chills down our backs.”
Oil and pipeline engineer George Jefferson Greene flew in a helicopter over the northeastern slopes of Mount Ararat in 1953. He was shocked to see a huge, wooden ship protruding from the rocks and ice. Greene took many photographs with excellent cameras from as close as 90 feet away from the vessel. He showed his very clear, 8×10-inch, black-and-white photos to at least 30 people but failed to generate interest in a follow-up expedition. Disheartened, Greene went to British Guyana for a mining operation.
On December 27, 1962, Greene was murdered, his body found floating in a hotel pool. All of his Noah’s Ark photos and copies disappeared from his home, office, briefcase, and a rented storage unit in Texas, which was ransacked. Did Greene come much too close to the truth?
In July 1955, Fernand Navarra and his son, Raphael, age 11, climbed to the top of Ahora Gorge and recovered numerous pieces of very old wood: “I saw a black piece of wood!…I split off a piece about five feet long. Obviously, it had been hand-hewn….this ancient piece of wreckage…There was never any doubt in my mind…that it could only be the Ark.”
Navarra returned to Mount Ararat in 1969 with the Scientific Exploration and Archeological Research (SEARCH) team (with thousands of dollars in free film supplied by National Geographic Society.) On July 31, 1969, they found five pieces of wood that resembled ancient planks, one being 17 inches long. This wood was subjected to four different archeological tests for degree of lignite, gain in wood density, cell modification, and degree of fossilization.
The testing was accomplished by the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, the National Center of Scientific Research in Paris, the Forestry Institute of Research in Madrid, the Center for Forestry Research and Analysis in Paris, the Department of Anthropology and Prehistoric Studies at the University of Bordeaux, and the Cairo Museum in Egypt. All of these tests established the age of the wood at approximately 5,000 years old!
In 1964, there was apparently a National Geographic expedition to Mount Ararat, which U.S. Air Force chaplain Lieutenant Colonel Roger H. Pearson wrote about in 1973: “Sometime in late 1964, a group of people stopped at Trabzon (Air Station, Turkey)…They drove a Land Rover…(and) identified themselves as members of a National Geographic expedition from Mount Ararat…When I asked him almost jokingly if they had discovered the Ark, he said, ‘Chaplain, you wouldn’t believe what we found!…they had made a discovery of tremendous significance…I kept checking issues of National Geographic for information… (but) I saw nothing about it.”
U.S. Air Force chaplain Captain Clair Shaffer added in 1973 that, “A team had stopped and spent the night at our base. This was a National Geographic expedition, which had been to eastern Turkey and to Mount Ararat…When asked the expected question, ‘Did you find the Ark?’ they answered…‘We have made the greatest discovery in the history of man!’”
Supporting the evidence of a 1968 expedition by National Geographic, David Duckworth reported that, “In the fall of 1968, a friend and I were employed (at)…the Smithsonian Institution, under the direction of (Doctor) Robert Geist and Al Merrick…several crates were delivered…(They) took out several artifacts like old wood…fossilized wood…And they had some photographs taken from a balloon…showing a ship-like object down in some ice.
“I was told it was Noah’s Ark…that they’d found it…we saw a couple of crates marked: ‘Mt. Ararat—National Geographic/Smithsonian Expedition ’68’…Noah’s Ark, they’d identified!…After about five days, though…They started taking the stuff out…and told everybody just to keep their mouth shut…(Two years later): I was visited at work by two…FBI agents…They told me…that I had been somewhere I shouldn’t have, and seen something that didn’t concern me.
“There were some boxes and crates on the loading dock…an oblong, sarcophagus-like thing…made out of alabaster. It had a sliding panel on one end that slid down into grooves…they found the body of some important personage from the Bible in it, covered with resin…‘We think it’s Noah himself!…preserved, and a tablet with him.’”
Ray Anderson climbed the mountain in 1973, taking photos: “Above the Ahora Gorge at about 15,500 feet…the Ark is broken in two…During an earthquake…about 100 feet or more of it, slid down the slope and lodged in a crevasse…I could quite clearly see…a section of the roof…75 feet wide by roughly 45 feet high…350 feet in length…and 100 feet in the short, south-end piece, equaling 450 feet…length.”
Ed Behling of the U.S. Air Force also climbed the mountain in late May 1973 and stated that, “I looked over the side of a ledge, and 50 feet below us was a gigantic, black structure. It was so large and awesome…The front end of the Ark is broken off, with a gaping hole…The whole Ark was black…the roof sloped very gradually, maybe a 10-degree slope…that went the length of it, like a catwalk…Basically, it was a big box that was very long…40 to 50 feet high and about 60 feet wide. The walls must have been 18 inches (one cubit) thick.”
According to an anonymous source, in 1974, a U.S. special operations team code named “Black Spear” was on a secret mission near the Soviet/Armenian border, trying to photograph a Soviet radar device. While there, they accidentally fell though the ice and snow on Mount Ararat into a huge wooden structure. They all concluded that it must be the true Ark of Noah and sent a classified report to the White House.
On January 30, 1975, Doctor John Morris wrote to Congressman Robert Wilson, noting that aerial photos “were taken in August 1974, as a result of my request…but have been classified since and are not available.” Wilson contacted the CIA in February, and on March 11, Morris was officially notified that the photography of Mount Ararat was classified and could not be provided, not even to the U.S. Congress. Why?!
In 1974, USAF Colonel Walter T. Brown of Phoenix, Arizona, was summoned to CIA headquarters and debriefed about Noah’s Ark by the special assistant to CIA Director William Colby. They wanted to know everything that Colonel Brown could possibly tell them about Noah’s Ark. No piece of information was considered too trivial.
Colonel Brown was a former paratrooper and Army Ranger who earned a Ph.D. in Engineering from MIT and was teaching at the Air Force Academy and Air War College. He developed the Hydroplate Theory of the Global Flood in 1972, became an expert on Noah’s Ark, and later directed the Center for Scientific Creation in Phoenix.
Air Force pilot Al Shappell (not his real name) added that, “Something happened in 1974…(We) were assigned…to fly a highly-secret mission over Mount Ararat…I was taken along on an F-4 (RF-4C Phantom II) fighter to take pictures of the object…at low altitude, less than 1,000 feet…The film was turned over to the Air Force and classified ‘Top Secret.’ I can tell you what I saw with my own eyes. It was a dark, black, foreign object about two-thirds of the way up the mountain near a gorge. It was oblong and partially buried in ice, overhanging a cliff…a boat-like object, definitely man-made….it didn’t belong on the mountain. It was just totally out-of-place.”
According to The Incredible Discovery of Noah’s Ark, a joint U.S. military expedition in 1980 made an on-the-ground survey of Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat. The location and description were entirely consistent with the Hagopian, Davis and Shockey sightings of 1902, 1904, 1943, and 1989-90. They boarded the vessel, measured it, and took black-and-white photos and color slides, but they did not remove any major pieces or harm the Ark. Their report was classified Top Secret.
In July 1986, explorer Robert “Bob” Garbe took an astounding, breathtaking, color photograph from an elevation of about 15,000 feet on the mountain during an Ararat expedition. He was taking several shots of Ahora Gorge from near the summit and did not notice the incredible object at the time. It was in his slides later.
The photograph visually depicts a ravine, dropping off into a canyon at the top of Ahora Gorge. Nestled snugly in the ravine is a long, enormous, brown object with perfectly straight lines and a roof vent, precisely matching all Biblical descriptions of Noah’s Ark as well as George Hagopian’s very detailed firsthand exploration of the Ark. However, a later color photo of exactly the same ravine in 2001 shows nothing but a little snow in the bottom of the depression. So, the huge object had clearly moved since then, probably sliding farther down the mountain in the ice and snow.
Also in 1989, Turkish Doctor Ahmet Ali Arslan climbed to an elevation of 16,000 feet. He later wrote that, “I’ve gone up on the mountain maybe 50 times…exploring a site on the Ahora Gorge side of the mountain…I noticed about 100 to 200 feet away what appeared to be a building-type structure, definitely made of wood…below the summit. It almost looked like kind of a captain’s cabin. You could look in and see beams and things like that…appears to definitely be a man-made structure…(It) was without question Noah’s Ark.” Arslan’s amazing, close-up discovery corresponded exactly with the location of the 1973 Ark sightings by Ray Anderson.
In September 1989, Mike Holman, a physicist, computer scientist and satellite-imagery analyst, reported that, “I put the (French, September 1989) SPOT Ararat imagery on computer, where I could detect objects down to 32 feet in size. I examined an ‘S’-shaped area above Ahora Gorge where photographs taken from a helicopter show a rectangular object extending out of the snow on a rocky ledge.
“I saw a defined object approximately 80 feet wide, with 90 feet of the length extending out of the snow over a rocky ledge…the SPOT satellite image and the helicopter photo show the object aligned in the same direction over the ledge…it is definitely not just a part of the surrounding terrain…According to military satellite information, it is an organic, fibrous object made of wood.”
In late August 1990, Doctor Carl Baugh, the founder and director of Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose, Texas, led an exploration of the mountain. He wrote that, “As we flew (by helicopter) at approximately 15,000 feet and approximately 150 feet from the surface of the glacier, I personally saw a huge beam of laminated wood…approximately four feet thick, and about 12 feet of it extended out of the ice and snow.
“This was…on the northeast face of Mount Ararat…Our advanced, satellite information identified spectrographic lines of a wooden object under 60 feet of ice and snow…(with) a barge-like shape to the end, a deck, a superstructure in the middle…there appears to be a platform with an incline leading up to the deck of whatever this vessel might be…It is our opinion that we have located portions of the Ark of Noah.”
There was renewed interest in Mount Ararat by the CIA in February 1994, with CIA Director Doctor Robert Gates making specific inquiries “about imagery analysis related to Noah’s Ark,” adding that, “We have consistently denied requests for release of this imagery due to classification considerations.” What could possibly be classified about photographs of a mountain of no particular interest, unless Noah’s Ark really exists there?
In fact, in Gary Allen’s 1976 book, None Dare Call It Conspiracy, he writes that, “I want to explore what can only be described as a cover-up of massive proportions… evidence continues to mysteriously disappear, and absolutely no mention of this incredible discovery is made in the mainstream media…One of the most puzzling aspects of the Noah’s Ark mystery is the amount of evidence that has disappeared over the last century.”
“‘How there could be so much evidence and so little proof defies reason,” say Dr. Tim LaHaye and Dr. John Morris in their book, The Ark on Ararat. “The proof is kept from the hands of those who would make it public…The amount of ‘missing’ Ark evidence including photographs, artifacts, and wood samples has become phenomenal…you can’t help but wonder what’s happening in regard to photos of Noah’s Ark. The new evidence uncovered on a regular basis is astounding, but the mystery behind the missing evidence continues.”
One of the latest satellite images was taken by Google Earth on September 26, 2019, at the top of Ahora Gorge at 15,340 feet elevation, just over a half-mile from the summit. It distinctly shows a long, brown, rectangular object in the snow at the exact location of numerous previous Ark sightings at coordinates 394239.50 north by 0441758.94 east. The object is at least 315 feet long, with 98 feet totally clear of the surrounding snow and ice, and is about 72 feet wide. What is it?
If Noah’s Ark truly exists upon Mount Ararat, it would be extremely difficult to imagine a better place to protect it from human encroachment. Not only is the mountain very remote and almost inaccessible (except on foot), but it is constantly subject to avalanches, border tensions, carbon dioxide gas, crevasses, dense fog, earthquakes, eruptions, expensive expeditions ($65-85k per person), falling rocks, frequent storms, kidnappings, lightning, local bandits, PKK militants/terrorists, politics, smugglers, thieves, very high winds (100 mph daily), violent storms, and wild animals, including brown bears, rabid dogs, wild goats, puff adders, scorpions, mountain sheep and vicious wolves.
But amazingly, according to The Incredible Discovery of Noah’s Ark, “Among the many wonders of Ararat, a rainbow appears almost daily over the northern parts of the mountain.” After all, Genesis 9:13 reminds us that, “I have set my bow (rainbow) in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”
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Warren Gray is a retired, U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism. He served in Europe, Turkey, and the Middle East, earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings, four college degrees, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course, and the USAF Combat Targeting School. He is currently a published author and historian (also investigating historical mysteries.) You may visit his website at: warrengray54.vistaprintdigital.com.