EDITORS’ NOTE: Few Old Testament stories capture the imagination like Noah’s Ark. Fascination with the possibility of actually finding the Ark’s remains has inspired expeditions to the Mt. Ararat region of Turkey for centuries. In the fall of 2004, Baptist Press sent two journalists — Tom Engleman of Atlanta and Chuck Hughes of Baltimore — to Turkey in order to document the continuing search for Noah’s Ark. What follows is the first of 11 installments from their journals about the experience. Our series supplements their story with an array of sidelights, including glimpses into Ark expeditions conducted by one of the best known and most controversial of the searchers, the late Ron Wyatt of Madison, Tenn.
ATLANTA (BP)–Following are journal entries from two men in search of Noah’s Ark.
CHUCK: In June 2004, a friend since my youth, Tom Engleman, phoned me to talk about his upcoming trip to Turkey. About the same time every year for the past six years, Tom would call me with the same news: He and fellow team members of the Ark Research Project would have almost finalized their plans to travel to Turkey in search of Noah’s Ark. But each year their best-laid plans fell through.
This phone call, on the other hand, was the real thing.
Never for one moment during those years did I entertain the notion I’d be with Tom traveling to Turkey. Yet the tone in his voice that day was the sound of surprised accomplishment.
Little did we know what we were going to face as we began to lay out our own plans. Through the generous help and support from the religious sector and Ark enthusiasts, we set out for Turkey, laden with professional camera gear and personal belongings needed for the three-plus weeks we planned to be there.
Our journey begins in Ankara. We have already arranged to meet a fellow team member, a young man of Muslim decent, whose interest in learning more about the Christian faith set him outside the “accepted” religious culture of Turkey. He has professed his Christian faith, which in a Muslim religious culture could be dangerous. His faith is strong. To protect his identity in this log, we’ve decided to call him “the Baptist.”
Three minds, three hearts — but we have a common goal. We realize that whatever we might learn — or see — could change the way people view the world.
TOM: Its 5 a.m. already. My eyes can’t focus with my brain this morning, and I leave for Turkey in a few hours. My mind had been racing through the night while I went over my mental checklist, trying to remember everything we need to accomplish over the next several weeks. Do I have the proper papers? What about customs? My camera gear? Am I allowing enough time to make the flight? How will Chuck find me in the airport? It’s now 5:01 a.m.! Great!
As I tend to the final details before I leave for the airport, I’m silently overwhelmed by a calmness that’s surrounding me. My confidence level is high, yet I’m humbled at what I’m about to do. My wife keeps taking pictures of me: getting hugs from my two sons, with our dog, next to the cat and finally just one for her. Something to put next to her computer, she says. After all, I’m leaving for three weeks. But she knows this trip is something I’m committed to do. She’s known for many years that I’ve been part of a team pursuing the mystery of Noah’s Ark — for the religious value that bears no monetary value. It means I will be one of the contributors in the research for Noah’s Ark.
“Let’s see, that’s five bags; here’s a 50.” The friendly Sky Cap at the Atlanta airport smiles and says, “Thanks, my friend.” I glanced at the stamp on my ticket: Delta Flight 39 to Frankfurt, Germany — the longest leg of this trip. I’ll be there — we’ll be there — in eight hours. With my oversized broadcast camera in hand, I search for Chuck. He’s flying in from Baltimore, and our plan is to hook up at the gate in the international terminal. The thought sails through my head that maybe he wouldn’t be there, but as soon as it does, I spot him.
I’ve known Chuck for along time, and I instantly recognize that frown on his face. For several agonizing moments, he murmurs, “Only in this airport. It happens only in this airport.” I wonder if he was having second thoughts. But then I realize he’s probably just experiencing the same feelings of anticipation as I am.
We stand just outside the newsstand across from gate E-18, lost in our own thoughts.
I ask myself all the time, “Why me?” For years, I’ve dreamed that one day I would do something of the Lord’s work. For as long as I remember, the unknown was always out there, egging me on. I recall a conversation with my mother when I was very young. I told her God has something planned for me, I just knew it — and I left it at that. Thirty years later, I’m having another conversation with my mother. And we always bring up that subject. In her tender, loving way she tells me, “I’ve been praying all these years that God would use you in a very special way.”
I don’t know what I’ll accomplish, whether I’ll learn anything new from all the ones who traveled to Turkey before me. But I know one thing: After the years of anguish of pending trips with colleagues of mine, I am selected to represent this part of our world history. Whether it makes the books or not, God has guided me to this point, and I don’t want to let Him down. I don’t even have thoughts of material things — I feel like I’m a disciple. I hand my boarding pass to the flight attendant, and Chuck and I get on the plane.
NEXT: Arrival in Ankara