Is Noah's Ark Theoretically Possible? | Unveiled

VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Johnson
The story of Noah's Ark is one of the best known religious stories in the world... but is it really possible?? When we count up all of the animals on the planet, is it even remotely plausible that they could all be contained in just one boat? And looked after by just one family? In this video, Unveiled investigates the science behind... Noah's Ark!

Is Noah’s Ark Theoretically Possible?

One of the most well-known religious stories is that of Noah’s Ark, where God instructs a pious man named Noah to build an ark and save two of every animal during a Great Flood that will eradicate sinful humanity. As well as in the Bible, a version of the story also appears in the Quran and a similar tale from ancient Mesopotamia, the “Epic of Gilgamesh”, is considered the oldest surviving work of great literature. But despite how widespread the story is, could it ever truly happen?

This is Unveiled, and today we’re answering the extraordinary question; Is Noah’s Ark theoretically possible?

Most scholars agree that the global flood at the centre of this story didn’t happen. There have been various studies made, but there simply isn’t the scientific evidence to suggest that there was ever a flood large enough to completely absorb the entire planet and wipe out almost all of humanity. That isn’t to say that large-scale catastrophic floods didn’t happen, they just weren’t that large! One such contender for the incident which might’ve inspired the Noah’s Ark story is the melting of the world’s glaciers after the last ice age, which caused (amongst other things) the Black Sea to overflow in around the year 5,600 BC. It’s also believed, however, that this particular event played out too gradually to cause a sudden, cataclysmic flood… but there’s little doubt that widespread areas around this time were covered in water.

Countless people have also searched for the Ark itself over the years, following the Biblical account that it landed on the top of Mount Ararat – though the Quran says it wound up somewhere else entirely. Even the likes of Marco Polo and Sir Walter Raleigh wrote about their own searches for the Ark, while in more recent times a steady flow of ark-aeologists (no pun intended) have carried on the hunt throughout the twentieth century. There have been claims that the Ark, or bits of it, have been found, as well… but these have generally been dismissed as hoaxes or as “pseudoscience” by the majority. Generally, this epic vessel which is said to have survived near total apocalypse amounts to an ongoing mystery for us today… and evidence of the Ark ranks alongside things like the True Cross and the Holy Grail as being among the ultimate and most sought after of religious artefacts and relics.

But what exactly are ark-hunters expecting to find? What would the Ark have looked like, how big was it, and could it ever have been logistically plausible? According to the measurements given in the Book of Genesis, this monumental boat was three-hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide, and thirty cubits tall. Students at the University of Leicester in the UK have worked out that a boat this size would in fact have been large enough to float… and, crucially, it would have been able to hold the up to the 70,000 animals suggested to have been on board. They calculated one ancient cubit as 48.2 centimetres… so, in today’s money, the Ark was 144 metres in length, or 472 feet. The team then found that 70,000 animals is around 50.5 million kilograms in mass; more than 50,000 tonnes… before determining that the Ark built to biblical proportions - provided that it was exceptionally well built - could’ve coped, housing all the animals that God instructed Noah to save.

We also know that it’s certainly possible to build a boat of this size and with these dimensions - at least, with today’s technology. The Ark as it is in the Bible would come in smaller than the Titanic, for example, which was almost double as long - at 269 meters. It would also have been significantly smaller than the largest ship ever built, Seawise Giant, a behemoth of a boat built in the 1970s which was fifteen meters longer than the Empire State Building is tall. Crucially, as well, unlike both Seawise Giant and the Titanic, the Ark never really needed to go anywhere; it just had to float reliably enough to withstand forty days and forty nights of rain - which gives another tick for it in the plausibility column! The building materials and methods, however, pose more of an obstacle for the Ark’s design… Building a large and robust ship out of steel is one thing, but Noah only had wood to work with. Traditionally, boats are made of wood… but how Noah managed to construct anything as vast as the Ark using just wood and with only his sons to help him is a mystery the Bible doesn’t elaborate on.

Taking into account some particular interpretations of the story, though, there’s a larger problem than the Ark itself… and that’s the animals. According to some creationists, Noah’s Ark should have housed dinosaurs, for example (despite the evidence showing that humans and dinosaurs never lived at the same time). Regardless, if dinosaurs were saved from the end of the world by Noah, then it’s a big problem because they were clearly much larger than the land animals alive today. The biggest land animal on Earth right now is the African elephant, but it is still much smaller than a whole host of ancient dinosaur breeds… so the space available aboard the Ark immediately shrinks when we consider what could’ve been invited to board.

There’s a potentially problematic caveat in Genesis where the dinosaurs are concerned, too, which is that God is said to have asked Noah to gather seven pairs of “clean” animals and just one pair of “unclean” animals. This means that the number of, say, Tyrannosaurus-Rexes on the Ark hinges on whether or not they would’ve been considered kosher. In fact, the “clean” or “unclean” classification of dinosaurs is something which has attracted study before - but without any solid conclusions.

For simplicity’s sake, though, let’s assume that there weren’t any dinosaurs on the Ark and the original tally of 35,000 different species and 70,000 individual animals is correct. Animal welfare quickly becomes the biggest issue facing Noah and his family, since according to the Bible, the only people on the Ark were Noah, his wife, his sons, and their wives. That’s just eight people to take care of 70,000 creatures, all of which will have very varied diets and needs. Keeping predators and prey separate would naturally be of paramount importance, as well as keeping the predators separate from each other.

Then there’s the issue of providing enough food to feed everything for the duration – which, unless every single animal converted to eating fish and there was some sort of incredibly effective method of catching fish on board, would also seem an unsolvable problem. At the other end of that problem, though, is animal waste. Shovelling it off the Ark and into the sea would be a round-the-clock task, but also one which could then affect the… edibility… of the fish caught from surrounding waters. In only a matter of hours, the Ark would surely have had no hope of passing anything close to modern-day regulations for the keeping of animals!

Zoos are famously difficult to manage even at the best of times, but the Ark represents an incomparable prospect - a chronically understaffed and criminally under-resourced facility severely lacking in space and suspended amidst water, perhaps with the added bonus of catering for dinosaurs, too! The largest zoo in the world by “number of animals” is the Berlin Zoological Garden, home to 20,000 animals from 1,500 species – but that’s still nowhere near what the Ark would have to handle. Noah’s task is one that the modern world simply couldn’t (or wouldn’t) entertain. Physically, yes, the Ark would hold all of the animals it was supposed to, but their wellbeing and the logistics of the project are impossible to manage.

What’s worse, there is some debate on exactly how long the Great Flood lasted for in Noah’s story… with some parts of the Bible citing 150 days rather than 40, and other interpretations even arguing that it lasted for an entire year. The task at hand gets more and more difficult, then, and that’s before we even consider that there are many more animals on Earth today than there were when Noah is said to have lived! Today, there are an estimated 6.5 million species of land animals, which makes at least thirteen million individual creatures on the Ark - and that’s before we account for Noah’s “clean/unclean” stipulations. The rise in species number alone would make constructing the Ark today so much harder, even with the luxury of improved building materials. Not even Seawise Giant would be big enough to house everything and, needless to say, a team of eight people certainly wouldn’t be enough to manage it!

Even capturing the animals needed for the Ark would be a practical impossibility. The 6.5 million species of land animal are, in reality, only those we actually know of. Most naturalists and scientists concede that there could still be thousands of animal species on Earth we’ve yet to discover. And the prospect of rounding even a tiny percentage of all those up, and shepherding them into one place… well… it would take hundreds of people multiple generations!

So, say you had at your disposal a Seawise Giant-style, titan of the seas… would the Ark be possible today, even then? At almost every stage of the project the answer is a resounding “no”. It doesn’t really matter how much more advanced our technology is than Noah’s was, nor the fact that we’d probably assemble a larger team… From collecting an example of every single species, to feeding, cleaning and caring for those creatures… it just isn’t going to happen. The modern-day epic boat-builder obviously wouldn’t have dinosaurs to contend with but, even so, that’s why Noah’s Ark isn’t really possible!
Meant to say,would NOT have been on the ark and would have drowned.
Oh ye of little faith. This is why you would of have been on the ark, and would have drowned!