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IN SEARCH OF NOAH’S ARK: Part 10 — The Ark of Noah

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 10th 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.

UZENGILI VILLAGE, Turkey (BP)–Following are journal entries from two men in search of Noah’s Ark.

CHUCK: Hassan Baba tells us that Durupinar is not the name of the area where some believe the remains of Noah’s Ark rest. Rather, Durupinar is the name of the Turkish pilot who took photos of the area from the air. The actual name of the site, located 21 km south of Mt. Ararat, is Uzengili Village.

The information in the tourist center is centered around Ron Wyatt and David Fasold, who did the first archeological and geological investigation of the site and compiled some very compelling evidence. The walls of the visitor’s center are lined with stories of the two researchers and photos of them posing with a much younger Hassan Baba. Wyatt and Fasold took soil samples and conducted sophisticated radar and X-ray work on the site.

They concluded that the remains on the site have three levels, most of it buried beneath a sea of mud. They pulled petrified wood and rock from the site, as well as petrified coral — proof that sea water once was 3,300 meters high on the mountains, at the very least.

From the tourist center, the outline of a ship can be seen. It fills the camera frame. But it is a long hike to the actual site with heavy tripods, cameras and batteries on our shoulders. At this altitude, the air is a little thin. For those not used to hiking in a higher altitude, breathing becomes labored.

Tom shoots video from the bow to the stern. I use the still camera to capture the moment. From amidships, you can see that the bow points toward Mt. Ararat, and from the stern you can see the path where the boat was pushed down the mountain slope by a river of mud.

We were able to see petrified coral lying on and around the stern, as well as several pieces of petrified rock. It’s an interesting yet puzzling site, one that remains controversial with some scientists, experts and Ark researchers. Wyatt, Fasold and the Turkish government insist this is the actual Ark. Critics say it is merely a natural rock formation and there is no proof it has anything to do with Noah or the Ark. Researchers are still gathering information from the site, digging core samples and testing them. Someday we may know the truth.

Hassan Baba says a group pulled wood from the stern area last week. It will undergo carbon dating and testing to confirm, but these tests are not always reliable. For now, each person has to examine the evidence and make their own decision.

We return to the hotel and rest for a few hours. When we awaken, we walk to the Dogus restaurant and discuss the day’s events. Tomorrow we would like to shoot the anchor stones — large rocks that some say were the Ark’s anchors — before we head back to Erzurum to drop off the Baptist at the airport. We talk with some of the hotel guests before retiring. All in all, a good day for film, camera and story.

Day 8

CHUCK: Our intention this morning is to drive to the anchor stone site and film and photograph the area, then head to Erzurum. The anchor stones are monstrous slabs of rock, towering higher than a tall man, each with holes in the upper end where guide ropes are said to have been attached. During the Ark’s construction, the stones would have helped stabilize the ship, and they also would have helped balance the craft as the waters swelled around it.

We pack and check out of the hotel, but Tom notices the engine light has come on in the rental car. Since we don’t know whether it is a sign of serious engine trouble or simply a signal for service, we decide to forego the anchor stones and head back to Erzurum and the agency where we rented the vehicle.

It’s best to be safe. There are few auto repair centers in Dogubayazit.

We say our goodbyes to Ismet and the hotel staff, who have all been so wonderful. Then we take a small tour of the town and stop at the Internet café to send a quick note or two home. We have gotten more — and less — than we expected. Our time here had excellent qualities but also more than a few difficulties.

We were told before we left the States that eastern Turkey was a dangerous place to be, with terrorists and crazy men cutting off people’s heads. We received a large pile of information like this from people who had never left the comfort of their den and remote control. It seems to me those arguments come from people who do not know the Turkish people or their military determination.

Yes, the PKK rebel group does make the mountain their home. And, yes, 30 km to the south lies Iraq, where several Shiite groups have caused problems for journalists and people cooperating with the current government. But here in eastern Turkey, the only gunfire you’ll hear is at the occasional Sunni wedding. The people are some of the friendliest and most helpful folks I have ever had the pleasure to meet.

The mountains and hills roll into valleys and cultivated fields with a majesty and beauty not to be found anywhere else in the world. Streams and rivers meander through the valleys, and lush green arbors surround the villages and housing compounds. Olive trees, black willows and locust trees abound. Between them stand acres of sunflowers. Hay fields are being mown, and bales of hay are piled across the landscape as far as the eye can see. Wildflowers and sage grow between the nettles and grasses. Shepherds and herders tend their flocks, and children carry willow sticks to tap the occasional stray back into the fold.

No, eastern Turkey may not appear to be a safe place when you’re sitting in your comfortable den in the United States, but it’s only Turkey’s proximity to Iran, Syria and Iraq that creates the illusion of danger. The borders are well guarded, as we found out firsthand. The people of eastern Turkey live in relative safety, and it is an excellent place to climb and tour.

Antiquities abound in this land of many cultures: Urartu, Hittite, Ottoman, Seljuk and Roman. There are little bits of history in places one would seldom look. Eastern Turkey is a sprawling area fighting to enter the 21st century. From the 17th-century Ishak Pasha, you can see the ever-widening town of Dogubayazit, with its appliance and electronic stores, cell phone outlets and cafes in the distance. Between it, acres of farm and pasture lands with shepherd tents pitched on the hillsides and flocks meandering along streams and rivulets. I’m going to miss it.

Our drive back to Erzurum is uneventful. Four hours on the road and little by way of conversation. We are all tuned in to the land and what we have accomplished, as well as what we missed. We check in to the Hotel Oral, and our room is waiting for us. Our travel in Turkey will soon be over, and we’ll head back to America and our warm, comfortable homes.

After a round of hearty handshakes and bear hugs, the Baptist parts company with us, setting out for his home in Istanbul. Tom will head to Atlanta, and I’ll go back to Baltimore. We will remember this trip from the accumulation of sight and sound bytes in our minds, and when that fades, we’ll look at our photos and recall anew.

Day 9

CHUCK: At the Hotel Oral, we have an early breakfast and head to the Internet café to see if our contact was able to rearrange our scheduled flights and get us home early. Tom and I have a serious case of “gotta go home.” Hurrah, she did it! We are supposed to catch a flight out of Erzurum to Amsterdam early Tuesday morning. We’ll be in the U.S. by Wednesday afternoon!

As long as Delta gets our tickets changed through Turkish Airlines, we will take off from Erzurum at 3:20 a.m. Tuesday. The flight is scheduled to fly directly to Amsterdam, but we’ll probably find we need to stop in Ankara for customs. Since we haven’t had time to shop, we’ll wait until Amsterdam to pick up gifts for the wives and family.

We arrive at Erzurum airport at 3 p.m. But there are no direct flights to Amsterdam, as Tom and I suspected. We could have checked with THY Airlines earlier in the offices in Erzurum proper, but the Baptist said they didn’t do that kind of thing. So we’re back to the hotel. We decide to drive the 900-plus miles to Ankara and try to catch the 3:20 a.m. flight out. The Baptist says we should take a bus — a two-day trip. We pack the car anyway, determined to make our flight home, say our goodbyes to the Baptist and hit the road.

NEXT: Preparing to complete Gods’ task
This entire series of articles has been collected into an e-book, In Search of Noah’s Ark, available exclusively at http://kainospress.com.

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  • By Tom Engleman & Chuck Hughes