The Ararat anomaly is an object appearing on photographs of the snowfields near the summit of Mount Ararat, Turkey and advanced by some Christian believers as the remains of Noah's Ark.
America’s spy agency, the CIA, has for decades kept a growing dossier of classified military and spy satellite photos of a small patch of ice near the peak of (greater) Mt Ararat. In about one in ten of those years, the ice melts back enough to expose what some have suggested are the remains of Noah’s Ark.
For the last seven years,1 Professor Porcher Taylor has used the USA’s Freedom of Information laws to try and get those photos of the so-called ‘Ararat Anomaly’ released. Exasperated with government recalcitrance, Taylor arranged his own satellite photos of the area, which were recently published, though not definitive either way.
If the Ark is not under that ice, why the official secrecy? A mundane explanation is possible. Photos of thousands of military installations and other sensitive spots around the globe are automatically classified secret by US authorities. ‘We couldn’t release [the Ararat satellite imaging] … because it shows what we were targeting,’ says an anonymous senior intelligence source.
Turkish authorities think that target is CIA listening posts buried in the ice, once used to track missiles from the nearby Soviet base.
Could a wooden vessel such as the Ark have survived to modern times? On one hand, we don’t know the qualities of what the Bible calls ‘gopher wood’; there was a ‘pitch’ (probably resin) coating; and the chances of preservation would be enhanced in such a cold, remote place. A handful of wooden vessels have indeed survived from ancient times.
On the other hand, the ravages of shifting ice, and the lava flows of which there is evidence on Ararat, plus the post-Flood need for fuel and building materials, combine to reduce the probability of survival of the Ark.
Note the following:
Genesis 8:4 says that the Ark landed on ‘the mountains of Ararat’, not specifying this particular mountain. There are other mountains in the region with traditions of being the Ark’s resting place.
Finding the Ark would be a sensational advance for the cause of Genesis creation. As a ‘type’ of the Lord Jesus, it would also have evangelistic value.
Even so, it would not suddenly ‘convert the world’—as Jesus indicated, not even spectacular signs will overcome the wilful refusal to believe God’s Word (Luke 16:31).
God may not want the Ark to be found, because of the human tendency to venerate objects and icons, distracting from the worship of the living Creator of heaven and Earth (Numbers 21:9 cf. 2 Kings 18:4).
The Ararat anomaly is an object appearing on photographs of the snowfields near the summit of Mount Ararat, Turkey and advanced by some Christian believers as the remains of Noah’s Ark.
The anomaly is located on the northwest corner of the Western Plateau of Mount Ararat (approximately 39°42′10″N 44°16′30″E Coordinates: 39°42′10″N 44°16′30″E) at about 15,500 ft (4,724 m), some 2.2 km (1.4 mi) west of the 16,854 ft (5,137 m) summit, on the edge of what appears from the photographs to be a steep downward slope. It was first filmed during a U.S. Air Force aerial reconnaissance mission in 1949 — the Ararat massif sits on the former Turkish/Soviet border, and was thus an area of military interest — and was accordingly given a classification of “secret” as were subsequent photographs taken in 1956, 1973, 1976, 1990 and 1992, by aircraft and satellites.
Six frames from the 1949 footage were released under the Freedom of Information Act to Porcher Taylor, a professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia, and a scholar at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies specializing in satellite intelligence and diplomacy, in 1995.
A joint research project was later established between Insight Magazine and Space Imaging (now GeoEye), using the IKONOS satellite. IKONOS captured the anomaly on August 5 and September 13, 2000. GeoEye has constructed a computerized video of the imagery it captured of the anomaly. The structure appears at approximately halfway through the video. A controversial “bird’s eye view” satellite image, taken by IKONOS later in 2003 for the same research project, was released to the public in 2006.
The Mount Ararat area also has been imaged by France’s SPOT satellite in September 1989, Landsat in the 1970s and NASA’s Space shuttle in 1994, as well as military satellite images captured by the CIA’s KH-9 (Keyhole 9) in 1973 and KH-11 in 1976 and 1990–1992.
The Defense Intelligence Agency believes the anomaly shows “linear facades in the glacial ice underlying more recently accumulated ice and snow.
If it is found, it will likely be because of providential circumstances which have, against the odds, allowed it to be preserved for finding in God’s timing.
The Turkish government now insists that any archeological research in the area is done in cooperation with Atatürk University. At least one team of US researchers is proposing such a joint project, using ground-penetrating radar on the mountain’s icecap.
Many teams have looked for the Ark on this mountain and failed. Veteran Ark searcher, the Institute for Creation Research’s Dr John Morris, still encourages and assists other searches. But he, like a number of other past searchers, says it would take some new lead/evidence to get him to ‘go over’ again. Perhaps the ‘Ararat Anomaly’, when more details are available, will provide such an impetus.
Moviegoers were recently treated to "Noah," an epic story of bravery and sacrifice from the Old Testament, a saga in which the titular character takes on the divine mission to build an ark to save creation from an apocalyptic deluge.
Outside the big screen, speculation has swirled for decades that the leftovers of Noah's Ark hug the heights of Mt. Ararat in eastern Turkey — at a spot known as the Ararat anomaly. In true detective jargon, call it an "anomaly of interest."
Porcher Taylor, a professor of paralegal studies in the School of Professional and Continuing Studies at the University of Richmond, has led the search into the Mt. Ararat anomaly. Taylor's quest began long ago, he said.
"The cognitive genesis of my journey began in 1973, some 41 years ago, in my junior year as a cadet at West Point," he told Space.com. Back then, Taylor came across "credible rumors" ricocheting off the walls of the academy that a CIAspy satellite had accidentally imaged "what appeared to be the bow of a ship sticking up out of the ice cap on Mt. Ararat," Taylor said.
A couple of decades later, Taylor launched his own satellite declassification initiative investigating the Mt. Ararat anomaly imagery.
Drawing on his 21 years of arm-chair sleuthing, Taylor has given unclassified presentations at the Pentagon and the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center.
Along the way, he declared victory in convincing the Defense Intelligence Agency in 1995 to declassify five 1949 U.S. Air Force aerial photos of Mt. Ararat. Additionally, thanks to Taylor's invitations, a number of experts over the years have "performed analyses of the satellite imagery, which thankfully tempered my zeal as an amateur," Taylor said.
So in this day and age, why continue the journey? The wealth of information provided by DigitalGlobe's satellite imagery keeps Taylor going, he said.
"My ultimate goal has always been that my acquisition over the years of progressively higher- and higher-resolution satellite imagery from DigitalGlobe of the anomaly might definitively change the anomaly into a known entity, either something geological or perhaps something of Biblical proportions," Taylor said.
DigitalGlobe's new and powerful WorldView-3 spacecraft is slated for launch from California'sVandenberg Air Force Base in summer 2014. Among its customer-provided attributes, the satellite will yield 31-centimeter (12 inches) panchromatic resolution, making it the highest-resolution commercial satellite in the world.
"DigitalGlobe's constellation of satellites would be the envy of Indiana Jones," Taylor told Space.com. "I'm grateful and humbled that Digital Globe has flown numerous gratis missions for me over Mt. Ararat over the past decade, especially the QuickBird satellite mission of February 2003 that captured the boat-like form of the anomaly at 15,000 feet, without excessive amounts of snow and ice cover." [See images from Digital Globe]
Similar technology has already secured valuable scientific data for other purposes. Satellite imagery has proven to be a valuable tool for providing accurate information about the changing planet, said Kumar Navulur, senior director at DigitalGlobe's Product Development & Labs in Longmont, Colorado.
"State-of-the-art remote-sensing technology and analytics are now so advanced, we can not only view detailed information about man-made features, but also monitor the wonders of some of Mother Nature's hidden treasures," Navulur told Space.com. "For example, we have mapped polar bear patterns in the Arctic and penguin populations in the Antarctic," he said.
Navulur said that satellite imagery provides such a precise view from space "that we are able to proactively observe environmental changes which unravel human footprints from thousands of years ago, such as the Ararat anomaly, and contribute to space archeology in a real and meaningful manner."
Taylor hopes that a future DigitalGlobe satellite image might catalyze a scientific organization like National Geographic to launch an expedition to explore up under the ice cap on Mt. Ararat's Western Plateau at the 15,000-foot level.
The "game-changing" WorldView-3 satellite, Taylor said, "might just accomplish that goal, as that will be the world's first commercial satellite to have that skill set … a quantum leap in satellite technology!"
Additional analytical techniques have aided Taylor in his mission. He recently made use of a panchromatic texture uniqueness analysis of the anomaly, provided by remote sensing researcher and Ph.D. candidate Francois Luus from the Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and Luus' research supervisor, Sunil Maharaj.
Imagery used in the work was gleaned by the QuickBird satellite mission at 61 centimeters resolution in 2003. All the details of that recent analysis of the Mt. Ararat anomaly can be found in the following six-page report at:http://goo.gl/f8O3gs
Luus told Space.com that Taylor displays the tenacity and dogged determination characteristic of a successful investigator.
"His ability to rally support and repeatedly obtain specially commandeered satellite imagery of the Ararat anomaly is inspiring," Luus said.
Solving the riddle
Luus' texture analysis completed will help Taylor and others determine the anomaly's identity, Luus said.
"The texture uniqueness analysis we performed provides a more objective artificial intelligence perspective that shows us the parts of the anomaly that have novel textures and warrant further investigation," Luus said. "As a remote-sensing researcher, every pixel is given its due consideration, and good imagery is invaluable," he said.
Further study may consider the locations pinpointed by the uniqueness search to find clues about an artifact underlying the anomaly, Luus said.
"We are very excited about the new DigitalGlobe WorldView-3 satellite, which can truly shed some new light on the anomaly with its very high panchromatic and multispectral resolutions," Luus said. "Imagery of this quality may finally solve the riddle of the Ararat anomaly, or at least become the subject of a very satisfying remote sensing analysis," he said.
Former "Baywatch" star Donna D'Errico recently announced her plan to climb Mount Ararat in Turkey to search for the frozen remains of Noah's Ark. According to chapter eight of the Biblical Book of Genesis, that's where the big boat alighted after the Great Flood.
D'Errico is far from alone in her belief that it's still there today. Every few years a new team of mountaineers claims to have discovered what could only be the Ark, and climbs down from the mountaintop carrying chunks of rock taken to be petrified wood. Extensive satellite searchesof Mount Ararat have even been conducted; they particularly focus on something called "the Ararat Anomaly" -- an unidentified, Ark-sized formation near the mountaintop photographed by the U.S. Air Force in 1949, and thought by some to be the you-know-what.
Even for the scientifically inclined, it is conceivable that there's a grain of truth to the Great Flood story, since the Old Testament is, after all, a document written by human beings about the world as they knew or understood it. Perhaps there was a mighty deluge one year, which a fortunate man and his family weathered in a massive boat.
However, it is not scientifically conceivable that the Ark ended up on top of of the 15,330-feet-tall Mount Ararat. Quite simply, there's not enough water on Earth to raise water levels that high. And in case you were thinking that plate tectonics raised the mountain's peak since Noah's time: 6,000 years, the time since the Biblical Flood was supposed to have occurred, is, in geological time, the blink of an eye. Mount Ararat was just as tall, majestic and out-of-reach then as now.
For those willing to admit of miracles, who could conceive of more water than normally exists flooding the Earth for 40 days and nights six millennia ago, still, the Ararat Anomaly is very unlikely to be an Ark. Five years ago, Farouk El-Baz, Director of the Boston University Center for Remote Sensing, told LiveScience that believers are interpreting satellite images with a biased outlook. "Up to this time, all the images I have seen can be interpreted as natural landforms. The feature that has been interpreted as the 'Ararat Anomaly' is to me a ledge of rock in partial shadow, with varied thickness of snow and ice cover," he said.