Geoscience Research Institute

Noah’s Ark

1. Has Noah’s ark been found?

No. Several expeditions have searched for it, but without success. Some “boat-shaped” rock formations are found in the area of Ararat, but there is nothing special about them. There are numerous reports of people who claim to have seen the ark, but there is no evidence to back them up. It seems unlikely that the ark will ever be found. Claims that the ark has been found, but that more money is needed to prove it, should be regarded with caution.

2. How could all the millions of species of animals fit in the ark?

They didn’t need to. The ark was designed to include only terrestrial vertebrates — those that walk on the ground and breathe through nostrils (Genesis 7:22). This does not include marine animals, worms, insects, or plants. There are fewer than 350 living families of terrestrial vertebrates. Most of these would be the size of a house cat or smaller. If each taxonomic family was represented on the ark by one pair, with the few clean families represented by seven pairs, the ark may have needed to contain fewer than 1000 individuals. The ark could probably accommodate ten times this number.1 The question of space for animals on the ark is not such a serious concern.

3. Is it reasonable to suppose that each taxonomic family could be represented by a single ancestral pair in the ark? Doesn’t this require unreasonable post-flood evolutionary rates?

Some taxonomic families may be groups that represent more than one ancestral pair. However, one pair may have been enough in many cases. Some species today have been shown to possess sufficient genetic variability to produce morphological variations equivalent to different genera.2 Rates of morphological change may depend on the degree of genetic isolation and extent of environmental stress as much as on time.3

4. What about food, water and sanitation for all those animals?

These questions are not discussed in Scripture. Rainwater may have been available, making storage of water unnecessary. Food was apparently stored on the ark (Genesis 6:21-22). The God who revealed the coming flood instructed Noah how to prepare the ark, and who directed the animals to the ark, could certainly manage the logistics necessary to care for them.

5. How could food specialists, such as the koala, disperse far from the ark?

Plants provided the original diet for all terrestrial animals (Genesis 1:29-30). Major changes in diet have occurred, but we do not have records of how the changes came about. Most species can survive on alternative foods, at least for a while. Koalas are now restricted to eating eucalyptus leaves, but we do not know whether this has always been the case. They may have become specialized after they reached Australia. We do not even know whether koalas existed before the flood, or whether they developed from some ancestor that was preserved during the flood. There probably is no way to find the answer.

6. How could animals find their way from the ark all the way to South America or Australia?

We do not know, but it seems likely that the animals were supernaturally directed to go into the ark, and again to disperse from the ark. Some may object to invoking supernatural activity, but this is implicit throughout the flood story. Supernatural activity does not necessarily mean that natural laws were violated, but that events were directed by intelligent beings. Both South America and Australia have animals that clearly immigrated from outside their respective areas.4 Some islands have animals that must have reached there by rafting, and it seems likely that rafting has been an important method of dispersal. However, we do not know how the animals dispersed after the Flood.

7. What unsolved questions about Noah’s ark are of greatest interest?

How many different kinds of animals were saved on Noah’s ark, and what are their descendants? How did terrestrial vertebrates get from the ark to their present distributions?

[1] For a creationist discussion of space on the ark, see: Woodmorappe J. 1994. The biota and logistics of Noah’s ark. In Walsh RE, editor, Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, July 18-23, 1994. Pittsburgh, PA: Creation Science Fellowship, p 623-631.

[2] Wayne RK. 1986. Cranial morphology of domestic and wild canids: the influence of development on morphological change. Evolution 40:243-261; see also the FAQ on Change in Species.

[3] Parsons PA. 1988. Evolutionary rates: effects of stress upon recombination. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 35:49-68.

[4] A creationist discussion of South American biogeography is given in: Gibson LJ. 1998. Historical biogeography of South America, Part I: living vertebrates. Geoscience Reports 25:1-6; (b) Gibson LJ. 1998. Historical biogeography of South America, Part II: fossil vertebrates. Geoscience Reports 26:1-6.