Noah’s Ark and the worldwide flood have captured the imagination of millions for more
than 2000 years. It has been written about, discussed, dissected and hotly debated in
newspapers, books, magazines, and on the radio, tv and internet, but did it happen as
told in the Bible? In attempting to answer that question, I will look at what is recorded in
the Bible, applying logic and common sense. The main objective is to scrutinize the
story as told in the Bible and determine if the account is plausible or not. My biblical
reference will be the New American Standard Bible, the standard for the Catholic
In The Beginning 1
When first read, the story of Noah and the flood seem straightforward. God, angry with
the corruption of the Earth, plans the annihilation of all land based life, human and
animal. He instructs Noah to build an ark giving general specifications of it’s
construction . He further instructs Noah to fill the completed ark with a certain number
of clean and unclean animals as well as food for himself, his family and all the animals.
As we delve into the story with a discerning eye on the details that are evident and
those that aren’t, the story no longer remains as cut and dried as it first appeared. In
fact, some of the details that are not covered in the story have a greater impact, albeit a
negative one, on the plausibility of the story than some might believe.
The bible does not give a specific date for the flood, but James Usher, using the ages
of the people listed in the bible, in conjunction with known events, calculated the
creation of the Earth to 4004 BCE and the flood to 2348 BCE. Since these dates are
accepted as accurate by a great many who view the account of Noah and the flood as a
literal historical account, I have opted to use them as a base for my research.
The book of Genesis, containing the account of Noah and the flood, was supposedly
written by Moses about 1450 BCE. The earliest known Hebrew script dates from 1100-
1000 BCE, more than 300 years after the book was written. The language most likely
used was Ugaritic, a script in use from 1500-1300 BCE and one that is close in
structure to Proto Semitic. This presents the possibility that errors could have occurred
when translating the bible from Ugaritic to Hebrew.
Where the information for the flood came from is still debated. Since there is no
indication or support for the existence of documents detailing the flood, penned by
Noah or members of his family, we are left with two possibilities. The story could have
been handed down verbally from father to son or other accounts of the flood from other
lands could have been available to Moses during or just before he began witing the
book of Genesis.
For those who do not own a bible but wish to check out the biblical account, there is a
great online resource available. “The Bible Gateway” 1
As the story of Noah and the flood is examined, it will be helpful to have a time line of
events that happened before, during and after the flood. Below is one I have
constructed using information found in the bible. Bold month/day listings are dates
specifically given in the bible and those that are not bold are calculated dates based on
the passage of time indicated in the bible. The numbers in parenthesis are days from
the start of the flood.
2/10 God commands Noah to gather animals (-7)
2/17 Start of the flood (1)
3/26 Rain stops after 40 days & 40 nights (40)
7/17 Ark comes to rest on the mountains of Ararat (150)
7/17 Flood waters begin to recede at a steady pace (150)
10/1 Tops of the mountains become visible (224)
11/11 Window opened and raven and dove released for the first time (264)
11/18 Dove released second time and returns with olive branch (271)
11/25 Dove released final time and does not return (278)
1/1 Covering removed from the ark (314)
2/27 Earth is dry and humans and animals leave the ark (370)
The Ark 2
Noah is told by God to build an ark 300 x 50 x 30 cubits or 450 x 75 x 45 ft. It was to
include rooms, a window one cubit from the top, lower second and third decks and a
door in the side at the main deck level.
Gopher wood is what is referred to in the bible as the wood to use in the ark’s
construction. There is no corroboration in any other source to support the existence of
gopher wood. Most likely some local wood was used in building the ark. It is my belief
that an error occurred in translating the bible from Ugaritic to Hebrew and that the word
should not have been translated as Gopher but as Kopher. This seems to be
supported by the fact that Kopher/Kophar is a term which describes wood covered with
pitch, exactly what is indicated in the bible.
Once built, Noah was to pitch the ark within and without. There is some debate over
the type of pitch used to waterproof the ark. On one hand there are those that believe
that the pitch used was gotten by processing trees. While a possibility, it raises the
following two points. 1 - whether the number of trees necessary to obtain sufficient
pitch would impede the construction of the ark and 2 - if the time required to extract
sufficient pitch would negatively impact the project. The other possibility is the use of
petroleum based pitch easily found in pits that were fairly prevalent throughout the area.
This option would be quick and easy to obtain the needed materials and is supported
by the Latin Vulgate Bible which uses the word Bitumine and the Septuagint Bible that
uses the word Asphaltos in describing the type of pitch used. Of note is the Epic of
Gilgamesh, written several hundred years before the bible, that indicates the pitch used
Curiously, Genesis 8:13 describes Noah removing a covering from the ark. The only
covering previously mentioned in the construction of the ark was for Noah to have
covered the ark with pitch within and without. This additional covering is not detailed
and there is no information about it’s composition, method of attachment to the ark or
why it is needed in the first place.
Animals and Supplies 3
In Genesis 7:12, Noah is told to gather seven pairs of every animal considered clean
and one pair of those considered unclean 2. Using various sections of the bible it
appears that there are 33 clean animals and 99 that would be considered unclean 2A.
Noah would have collected 462 clean animals and 396 unclean animals for a total of
858. Adding additional animals to feed the carnivores would bring the total to at least
1000. According to Genesis 6:20 the animals would come to Noah so his gathering
would have only been to herd them onto the ark.
Genesis 6:21 shows God telling Noah to take some of all food that is edible for humans
on the ark, that it would be the food for the humans and animals. The only items
mentioned in the bible as food for humans is trees and plants (Genesis 1:29). The
plants and seeds would not have been viable though for the carnivores. This has
raised a theory that meat eating did not occur till after the flood. Comparing the dental
structure of today’s carnivores and the fossil record clearly indicate that meat eating
existed before the time of the flood. Even if all the fossils were created by the flood the
specialized teeth of the carnivore should not appear till after that time. A major
question that arises is where would Noah have gotten certain plants that don’t grow in
the area he lived in but were required for specialized diets of some animals such as the
While it is true that rain water could be collected fo the first 40 days, after the rains
stopped, the flood waters would not have been sufficiently clean for human and animal
consumption so a supply of water would have to be aboard the ark. A average
calculation of 1 gallon of water per day per animal/human (taking into account some
would drink more some less) plus an additional 100 gallons of water per day to cover
the larger animals such as elephants gives a total of 1100 gallons per day or 363,000
gallons for 330 days (370 days on the ark - 40 days and nights of rain). Jars that could
hold 5 gallons of water would weigh about 50 pounds. It would take 72,600 jars to hold
the water needed.
Loading the supplies would have been time consuming. If we calculate that each of the
8 people could move one jar of water or food into it’s proper place in the ark and return
outside for another in 10 minutes and if they worked for 16 hours of each day it would
have taken more than 6 months to load the supplies.
See Jewish Encyclopedia for excellent definitions http://JewishEncyclopedia.com
With the ark of the size indicated in the bible it could have taken twice to three times as
long, bringing the required time to somewhere between a year and a year and a half.
This may be moot though as the only time frame given by God is the 40 days and 40
nights of rain resulting in a flood. With no indication of how long the flood waters would
remain, it is possible that Noah would not have loaded enough stores for the entire time
the humans and animals would remain on the ark.
The Flood 4
In the 600th year of Noah’s life, on the second month, seventeenth day of the month,
the rains began to fall, the fountains of the deep burst forth and in 40 days the whole
world was covered by water above the tops of the highest mountains or so the bible
tells us. As the flood rose it would not only have covered the land, animals, trees and
earth with water but also with silt, the effects of which would have made a major impact
on the world.
The excessive over watering of the plants combined with the sun light blocking silt
would have resulted in the complete eradication of all plant life on the world. While it is
true that some seeds could have survived and some plants would have returned, we
have to ask if those plants that had not sprouted any seeds or those that reproduce
without seeds would exist now if the flood occurred as told in the bible. Noah releases
a dove at one point that returns with a freshly picked olive leaf and Noah interprets that
to mean that the waters have abated. If the flood was of the scope depicted in the
bible, there would have been no living olive trees from which the dove could pick a leaf.
That would only have been possible for a flood of a much smaller scope.
The flood would have removed the existence of villages, towns, cities, and even whole
civilizations, through a combination of the waters sweeping away the people and
physical objects (homes, tools, etc...) and the silt covering what was left to a depth of at
least several hundred feet. The flood should also have left traces on the megaliths and
large stone structures around the world built before the flood but such traces have yet
to be found.
Did the flood waters cover all the high mountains? Looking at the time line we see that
on the same day the waters begin to recede at a steady rate, the ark comes to rest on
the mountains of Ararat. Mt Everest, being the tallest mountain in the world is some
12,000 feet above the tallest mountain in the Ararat chain. With a steady reduction of
the flood waters and the ark coming to rest on the mountains of Ararat, the flood waters
could not have covered any mountains higher than the tallest mountain in the chain and
so would not have covered Everest.
The Hebrew word for mountain is Har, but it is also the word for hills. Where Noah
possibly lived had plenty of hills but he would not have been able to see any mountains
from there. If we extend this out then the hills of Ararat, not the mountains is where the
ark would have come to rest, removing some problems that would have been evident in
a mountain landing.
We are told the flood waters rose 15 cubits higher than the highest mountains. Mt.
Ararat is 16946 feet high. If we add 15 cubits or 216 feet it makes it 17,162 feet. If we
use a rate of decrease of 4 feet an hour (nice and steady). The mountain tops from
those near 10,000 feet to Ararat itself at nearly 17,000 feet are visible when the time
line says they would be. However, the earth is dry 42 days earlier than the time line
and bible show. If we use just Ararat itself then the rate of decrease would be 3 feet
per day and it would take 15 years for the earth to be dry.
The bible says that the flood waters prevailed over the earth, higher and higher. It is
interesting to note that the word earth indicating the whole world was not used that way
until somewhere between 1300 - 1500 AD, some 2750 - 2950 years after the bible was
written. It points up that the writer of the bible meant ground and not world when
indicating what was covered by the flood and does lend more credence to a
local/regional flood as opposed to a world wide one.
The Voyage 5
Originally I thought that the layout of the ark would have had the animals on the first
and second decks, with the supplies stored on the third (lowest) deck. The more I
thought about it, the more inefficient that seemed to be. It finally occurred to me that a
better layout would have been to have the food and water kept in containers next to
each pen to provide for easy and quick feeding of the animals each day. This would
most likely have spread out the animals enough that there could be pens for them on
Covering the entire ark with pitch would not only have made it water tight but air tight as
well. Over the year plus that the humans and animals would have been constrained to
the ark, many types of gasses and other hazzards would fill the ark to dangerous levels.
Fumes in the form of Skatole, Mercaptans and Hydrogen Sulfide from stool, Ammonia
from urea, Ammonium Hydroxide , Carbon Dioxide from respiration, Smoke containing
Carbon Monoxide, Methane, Ethane and Acetylene 3 emitted from torches, would all
have had an negative impact on the passengers of the ark in the form of severe or fatal
The single window, even wide open, was not large enough to supply adequate
ventilation to the ark, especially the lower second and third decks. According to the
bible, the window was closed on the first day of rain and not opened for 264 days,
virtually eliminating any kind of ventilation and increasing the risk.
Left over food would have been a breeding ground for certain kinds of bacteria and
molds. These in addition to the gasses previously mentioned would, in time, make the
ark a hazardous and deadly place for anything living.
Removal of animal waste and left over food would have been extremely difficult.
Hauling it up to the first deck to dispose of it would have been a labor intensive chore
and trying to toss it out the only window could have been a near impossibility,
depending on the direction and strength of the wind.
There was also the need to clean the animal pens regularly. Would they have had
enough additional room to move the animals to clean the pens? What water would they
use...the flood water filled with dissolved and undissolved dirt and other debris and
possible bacteria or viruses or water that had been stored on board for drinking?
Other factors affecting the passengers of the ark:
1. Animal muscle impairment due to pen constraints.
2. Increasing irritability on the part of the animals due to the length of the voyage.
3. The improbability and dangerousness of leaving open flames unattended on a
wooden ship because of the possibility of fire, without wich, the animals would be
in complete darkness for most of every day affecting their mental and physical
150 days into the voyage, the ark comes to rest “on the mountains of Ararat” according
to the bible. Though not specific about which mountain the ark rests on, we can make
more than an educated guess about it. The bible says that the same day the ark
comes to rest, seventh month, seventeenth day, the waters also start to recede at a
steady rate. This coupled with the indication in the bible that the tops of the mountains
are not visible until the tenth month, first day, or 74 days later, clearly shows that the
only mountain the ark could have come to rest on, would have to be the tallest
mountain of the Ararat chain, Mount Ararat itself.
Post Flood 6
The flood waters receded, the ground dried and the passengers left the ark only to be
faced with the harshest, most severe conditions, all unfavorable to survival and all well
beyond the imaginings of Noah and his family. We have shown that for the bible to be
accurate, the ark had to come to rest on the summit of Mt Ararat, nearly 17,000 feet
above sea level. As well as snow and ice, air pressure there is 40% of normal, average
temperatures range from 0 C to -40 C, quantities of carbon dioxide mix with the already
reduced level of oxygen, fog blankets large areas and dangerous lightning exists.
Altitude Sickness, Frostbite, Hypothermia 4, Confusion and fluid buildup on the brain
and lungs would have affected humans and animals alike.
Traversing from the top of Ararat to the valley below is extremely difficult and
dangerous for those trained and equipped for mountain climbing. For those
unprepared, ill equipped and untrained for such a task, death is pretty much assured.
Those few, mostly birds, surviving the trek, would have been met by a bleak landscape
and an uncertain future. The flood would have left no food supply or shelter for the
animals, having wiped out all plant life on the face of the world.
While some seeds would have survived the flood and with seeds left on the ark after
the voyage some plants would have regrown in time. it would, unfortunately, have
taken far too long to ensure the herbivores survival. Some plants, Liverworts, Mosses,
Horsetails and Ferns, for example, do not produce seeds and should not be present
today as there would be no living specimens to regrow those plants from. Also, with a
flood of the scope detailed in the bible, almost all insects would have been wiped out as
well. Plants needing pollination help from say bees would not get that pollination
The carnivores would have been one of the biggest problems. Their only food source
being other animals, once released, they would have hunted first the herbivores then
the humans and finally each other as there was no other source of food for them.
The water supply could have been undrinkable based on how much salt, bacteria or
material was deposited by the flood in pools, streams, rivers or underground water
supplies. With both food and water in need and not necessarily available, survival
could have been near impossible.
At some time after exiting the Ark, Noah began farming and planted a vineyard or so
the bible tells us. Noah certainly could have used some of the remain seeds to start
growing crops however, grape vines are not started with seeds but cuttings of existing
grape vines with established roots attached. Since there is no indication that plants
were kept on the Ark in pots and watered and cared for, a vineyard would not have
Flood Accounts 7
I studied 267 flood accounts from around the world and separated them into the
Creation Story - The flood seems an integral part of an original creation and not
something occurring later as punishment for man.
No Flood - No actual flood is indicated.
Non-Specific Flood - Insufficient information is available to classify it as local, global or
Local Flood - Usually indicated by the flooding of the land, an area, the countryside, a
valley, a single island or a specific tribe or people.
World Wide Flood - A flood of the scope that it would cover the whole world.
I ignored the location of each flood story, instead concentrating on the description of the
flood, did it indicate the whole world in some way or was, for example, just a single
valley or area affected, so that I could put it in the correct category. In this way I
methodically went through each flood account over a period of several weeks.
Interestingly, all but a couple of stories I put in the world wide flood column are
distributed in the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Africa, as one would expect a story to
travel by word of mouth. Those outside the Eurasian/African area may be a result of
The complete list of flood stories, separated into the various categories can be found in
Normal practice of religions down through the ages have been to borrow from earlier
religions and that may be what has happened here. The progression of the flood
stories from Atrahasis to the bible seems to be as follows:
Atrahasis, Epic of - This appears to be the oldest known version of the flood story with
fragments older than those of the Epic of Gilgamesh. The earliest full version of the
epic dates from 1646-1626 BCE. It specifically details a river flood of 7 days/nights.
Gilgamesh, Epic of - The earliest versions of the epic date from the third dynasty of
UR (2150-2000 BCE). It refers to a cube shaped boat 180 feet in all directions divided
into 63 compartments and a flood of 7days/nights with an equal amount of time for the
flood waters to recede. This version, which copied much from the Epic of Atrahasis,
changed the word river in Atrahasis to the word sea in an attempt to convey how wide
spread the flood was and not an indicator that it covered the whole world.
Eridu Genesis - This 17th century BCE story tells of a river flood of 7 days and 7 nights
with the main character riding it out on a large boat. Nothing more specific is available
due to missing tablets.
Bible - The most well known of all the flood stories, written about 1450 BCE and
detailing an ark larger than anything known at the time and a flood lasting over a year
that covered the whole world.
1. The biblical flood should have left mass graves of people but there are none to
2. Out of place animal skeletons not native to the middle east, such as Koala’s and
American Bison should be found in Turkey but are not.
3. Flood damage should be found on large stone monuments and structures built
before the time of the flood but is not.
4. The separate story of the Tower of Babel, details how God changed the people
so they spoke different languages and couldn’t understand one another and
scattered them to the four corners of the world. It does not indicate that their
thoughts, customs and beliefs were similarly affected.
a. Why did the descendants of Noah, who repopulated the land of Egypt,
abandon their beliefs in one God and change to a belief not only in
multiple Gods, but the exact same Gods that were worshiped by the
Egyptians prior to the flood?
b. Why did they change their customs?
c. How did they learn, in less than 360 years 5, to read and write Egyptian
hieroglyphics and to copy the pre-flood Egyptian civilization perfectly?
d. Better yet who taught them about the Egyptians as there were none alive
after the flood with that knowledge?
5. There is a possibility that fishermen would have been on their boats, fishing
when the flood began and could have ridden out the flood, surviving on fish.
6. The tops of the mountains became visible 40 days before Noah opened the
window and released the dove but the dove found no dry land.
Abram, born 292 years after the flood, leaves home at 75 years of age visits the land
of Egypt, where he interacts with the people and ruling class
7. Noah was 500 when Shem, his oldest son, was born. The flood happened when
Noah was 600 and Shem 100. Arpachshad, Shem’s son, was supposed ly born
2 years after the flood when Shem was 100. For Shem’s son to be born when
Shem was 100 would indicate that he was born during the flood and not 2 years
after the flood.
8. According to Genesis 2:5-6 there was no rain before the flood but a mist existed
to water the ground. In Genesis 2:10 it says that a river flowed out of Eden to
water the garden. Now why would a river be needed to water the garden if the
mist existed for that purpose?
9. In Genesis 7:4, God indicates that he will bring rain. If rain did not exist before
this time, why didn’t Noah question God as to what rain was? Would he not
need to know to prepare properly.
10. In Genesis 6:13, God indicates he is about to destroy all land based creatures
with the earth. In 6:17 he indicates it will be done with a flood.
Everyone must come to their own conclusions about the biblical story of the flood and
the ark. I know that those set in their views, pro or con, concerning the story most likely
will not be swayed by myself or anyone else writing about it and it was never my intent
to. I am just presenting my research and thoughts for people to read or ignore as they
For me it seems that Moses or whoever wrote the bible may have heard tales of a large
flood, possibly covering the whole world. Something that large could only have been a
work of God and all works of God should be included in the Bible or so they possibly
thought. Wanting more details, they consulted the most common source available at
the time, the Epic of Gilgamesh. Combining what they had heard from oral tradition
with what was written in the Epic of Gilgamesh and making some changes, they crafted
the account that we know today. The biblical account does not stand up under close
scrutiny as being a historical narrative but a story with elements borrowed another story.
Acetylene - A colorless gas, C2H2, having an ether like odor.
Altitude Sickness - A condition caused by insufficient oxygen in the blood and
characterized by dizziness, nausea and shortness of breath.
Ammonia - Is an asphyxiating gas and at an adequate concentration can be explosive.
The gas dissolves easily in water creating Ammonium Hydroxide.
Ammonium Hydroxide - A corrosive, flammable and toxic substance with vapors and
mists that cause irritation to the respiratory tract. High concentrations can cause burns,
pulmonary edema and death. Brief exposure to 500 ppm can be fatal. Flammable
vapors can accumulate in confined spaces.
Carbon Dioxide - A colorless, odorless, incombustible gas, CO2.
Carbon Monoxide - A colorless, odorless, poisonous gas, CO.
Ethane - A colorless, odorless, flammable gas, C2H6
Frostbite - Injury to any part of the body after excessive exposure to extreme cold,
sometimes progressing from initial redness and tingling to gangrene.
Hydrogen Sulfide - A highly toxic and flammable gas. Although very pungent at first, it
quickly deadens the sense of smell so potential victims may be unaware of it’s
presence until it is too late. It’s greatest effect is on the nervous system with a toxicity
comparable to Hydrogen Cyanide.
Hypothermia - Subnormal body temperature.
Mercaptans - Medium to high levels of Mercaptans cause headaches, nausea,
vomiting, irritation of the lungs and inflamation of the eyes, nose and throat. At very
high levels difficulty breathing, Cyanosis (Turning Blue), loss of consciousness and
muscle spasms can occur.
Methane - A colorless, odorless, flammable gas, CH4.
Skatole - The mildly toxic compound has been shown to cause pulmonary edema in
goats, sheep, rats and some strains of mice. It can result in respiratory failure.
World Wide Flood (33) - Alfoor, Arawak, Assam, Assyrian, Bella Coola, Bhil, Celtic,
Eastern Brazil, Greek, Greenlander, Havasupai, Hebrew, Hindu, Huichol, Islamic,
Kamar, Karen, Lithuanian, Masai, Nicaragua, Northern Miwok, Olamentko Miwok,
Papua New Guinea, Popluca 14, Roman, Sarcee, Selk’nam, Skagit, Skokomish,
Squamish, Sumerian, Transylvanian Gypsy, Tuvinian.
China - This flood story apparently comes from the United States, not China. It has
been traced back to Nelson’s 1931 story “The dluge story in stone”. Nelson says that
according to the Hihking, Fuhi escaped the waters of a deluge, and reappeared as the
first man at the reproduction of a renovated world, accompanied by his wife, three sons
and three daughters. The temple illustration is a separate account which Nelson
attributes to Gützlaff, presumably Karl Gützlaff, a Lutheran missionary in China around
1825. Gützlaff reports it as a picture of Noah, not Fuhi. There is no further references
to allow either account to be checked and the temple illustration has not been found by
Australian - Early flood stories seem to revolve around water rising where specific
people have walked but not true floods. It seems that only after missionary appearance
In Australia do the stories take on the biblical proportions.
Babylonian - The Epic of Gilgamesh appears to be taken from the older Epic of
Atrahasis. At one point it appears the writer of Gilgamesh replaced the word river with
the word sea, elevating the account from a river flood to a greater one.
Chaldean - The earlier Chaldean account is of a non-specific flood while the later
Chaldean account seems to be a modified version of the Hebrew account. The writer
of the later account may have had access to the Hebrew account at the time.
Egypt - Atum threatens to flood the world but the papyrus is damaged and no other
information is available.
Hawaii - Of the six variations, one is a creation story, one a non-specific flood, one a
world wide flood and three are local floods. With only one account describing a world
wide flood it is possible that missionary contamination may have occurred.
Herschel Island Eskimos - The flood story here names Noah, which is not an
Eskimo name, and lends weight to missionary contamination.
Ho - Destruction by either fire or water. No other information is available.
Innuit - Mentions a global flood based on sea shells found in mountains but no actual
Ipurina - A flood of fire that burned everything including water.
Jicarilla Apache - Story of a flood was passed to them by others.
Kikuyu - Describes a flood of beer.
Chol - Flood does not reach the tops of the trees.
Popoluca - Indications of missionary contamination. Either the original native story
was altered to a great degree or they had no story and a version of the Hebrew story
modified to fit the peoples of the area was introduced.
Wintu - Story is reminiscent of a hurricane description.
Yaqui - Appears to be a local flood. It’s date of occurrence, 614 CE, rules it out as
the flood of the bible.
Chart of flood stories :