Satellites Search for Ancient Artifact - Noah's Ark
Satellites Search for Ancient Artifact
By Leonard David
Senior Space Writer
posted: 07:00 am ET
23 August 2001
WASHINGTON -- Military and private satellite snapshots
of Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey reveal an anomaly
that researchers say might be the remains of Noah's
A soon-to-be-launched commercial spacecraft will focus
powerful cameras on the mysterious mountainside oddity
to help unravel its true nature.
In the past, expeditions permitted to search the area
for what some claim are the ruins of Noah's Ark, while
failing to conclusively prove its existence, have
succeeded in sustaining debate. The area itself is a
geopolitical and religious hot spot, with Mount Ararat
sitting in the far eastern frontier of Turkey, near
the borders of Armenia, Georgia (formerly part of the
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR) and
Even the late Apollo 15 moonwalker James Irwin was
repeatedly drawn to Mount Ararat in hopes of finding
Ark wreckage. Through his High Flight Foundation, a
non-profit evangelical organization based in Colorado
Springs, the former astronaut made six treks to Mount
Ararat in an unsuccessful quest to find remains of the
Irwin's last expedition in 1990 ran into trouble.
Turkish police detained him following allegations that
he engaged in spying while looking for the Ark. Since
1991, the mountain has been closed due to Turkish
military operations against Kurdish rebels in the
Flood of data
To get up to speed on this search, it helps to start
with the Bible.
Noah was instructed by God to save his family and the
world's animals during a great flood that would cover
the Earth. To do so, Noah built a large vessel, an
ark. What followed was a pouring rain lasting 40 days
and 40 nights. According to the Book of Genesis, as
the Great Flood receded, the ark came to rest on the
mountains of Ararat.
Now jump to 1949. - An image from the June 19, 1949
U.S. Air Force Mission that captured a panoramic
view of what is simply called "the Ararat Anomaly"
Aircraft imagery of Mount Ararat taken in June of that
year and analyzed by U.S. intelligence officials
includes a unique feature at the 15,500-foot level on
the Northwestern Plateau. Then in 1973 and 1976,
through the lenses of classified satellites, this
"whatever-it-is" also purportedly stirred up the same
"It's called the 'Ararat Anomaly'," said Porcher
Taylor, an assistant professor at the University of
Richmond in Virginia, and an expert in satellite
imaging diplomacy and the news media. He has been
gathering evidence on the novel feature since 1993,
including a set of those 1949 aerial shots of the
area, now declassified.
Taylor said that arguments have erupted within
intelligence circles for decades as to what truly has
been seen on Mount Ararat.
"Debates center on whether or not it's a strange rock
formation, a crashed airplane, perhaps a fortress or
some other structure hundreds of years old � or maybe
something more interesting of potentially biblical
proportions," Taylor told SPACE.com. Certain
individuals in the know, he added, believe what is
visible in certain satellite pictures is the bow of a
ship sticking out of a glacier.
The anomaly is apparently more than 600-feet long (183
meters), Taylor said, at least that part of it jutting
out as seen in aerial and satellite imagery. One
expert, a naval engineer and architect, when looking
at the photos believes "prongs" or "ribs" of the keel
of an ancient marine structure can be identified, he
Taylor recently took his plight to The Washington
Times Corporation, publisher of Insight Magazine. That
publication helped fund special snapping sessions
using Space Imaging's private satellite, IKONOS 2.
On four separate dates starting in October 1999 into
the summer of 2000, photos of the mountain were taken
by IKONOS and processed by Space Imaging, based in
Space Imaging's Ikonos 2 can resolve objects as small
as 3.3 feet (1 meter) across.
IKONOS pictures snapped over Mount Ararat then were
contrasted with the aircraft photos taken in 1949.
A seven-person team of independent scientists and
analysts scrutinized the batch of images. While
clearly the photos show some type of feature, the team
was divided in their interpretation. While some felt
the anomaly could be human-made, others voted for rock
or deferred to inconclusive data, Taylor said.
One team member concluded the anomaly had apparently
shifted, suggesting that its composition was foreign
and not a chunk of the mountain. IKONOS imagery
confirms that the anomaly is "broken" in several
"The color of the anomaly is uniquely different from
the surrounding strato-volcanic rock. The anomaly
seems to be very smooth in texture as compared to the
jagged rocks," Taylor said.
If it's human-made, then what is it? By using
satellites, such as IKONOS, the saga has become a
"space-based Indiana Jones," Taylor says.
Ikonos captured this image of the alleged site of
Noah's Ark on August 6, 2000. The annotation show's
how this find differs from the anomaly captured in
The next step in the search for the Ark takes to the
air, quite literally, is just a handful of weeks.
The QuickBird 2 satellite is ready for launch on
October 18 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in
California. If successfully orbited, it will become
the world's highest resolution commercial satellite.
Operated by EarthWatch Incorporated in Longmont,
Colorado, QuickBird 2 can focus on objects down to
nearly 20-inches (one-half meter) across. Taylor
requested and then received an OK from the firm that
they will point the spacecraft's imaging system at the
feature in question on Mount Ararat.
"They are going after it," Taylor said.
"As of now we plan to take images � but have not
solidified exactly when we will work his requests into
our overall mission planning," said Chuck Herring,
"Whether we do it in calibration or during commercial
operations, we will work with him as it fits in our
mission plan," Herring told SPACE.com.
Seeing is not easy
Extremely heavy daily cloud cover and perhaps large
buildups of snow at the site make it almost impossible
for hikers, planes or satellites to see anything --
unless there is a major avalanche, high-velocity wind,
glacial meltdown or dissipation of clouds.
"This is a unique and unexplored site on the
mountain," Taylor said. Nearly 99 percent of all Ark
hunters, researchers, expeditions to Ararat have been
to the Ahora Gorge. That is on the other side of the
mountain, he said.
Time is of the essence, with winter closing in, Taylor
said. Moreover, as more commercial satellite
capability becomes available, there is increased
chance that the anomaly will be identified.
In particular, hyperspectral imagery from space offers
>All natural and human-made materials on the surfaceof the Earth have a unique signature of reflected
light from the Sun. This signature is more detailed
than can be captured by a conventional camera or the
human eye. Hyperspectral sensors can measure this
signature and actually identify materials from space.
What if the "Ararat Anomaly" turns out to be less than
a Biblical blast from the past?
"I would consider it a great victory either way,"
Taylor said. "Everybody should realize that the world
is truly transparent. The commercialization of space
is a direct peace dividend of the Cold War and our
space-based military satellites."
"As for the anomaly," Taylor said, "what it is � is
what it is � no matter what it is.
Creation Science Resource
Do You Yahoo!?
Get email alerts & NEW webcam video instant messaging with Yahoo! Messenger