The Voyage of Noah's Ark—An Epilogue

Creation Evolution Journal
The Voyage of Noah's Ark—An Epilogue

Elmendorf Responds to Moore

Unaccustomed as I am to defending the Bible (it's much more fun to attack evolution), I will only offer a few specific comments about one particular aspect of Robert A. Moore's lower-criticism article on Noah's Ark, having to do with the design and construction of the vessel.

Before I do that, however, I want to commend you on the special single-article issue of the C/E Journal. For its purpose, the article seems to be very well written, even though the cargo of words is heavily overloaded with straw men. I am sure that the evolutionary faithful out there will be praising Darwin for such an "effective" attack on the Bible.

It is obvious, however, that Moore's own between-the-lines speculation about what actually happened has no more substance or validity than the between-the-lines speculation of the creationist interpreters which he criticizes. With a hundred and some years of history packed into only about sixty verses, it seems to me that the account of the flood is made up mostly of "gaps," with only a few tantalizing bits of data in between, leaving an awful lot of room for arbitrary personal opinion.

Now back to the old arkeological drawing board. My specific comments have to do with the sections on design and construction of the Ark pages 1-5, and are as follows:

(1) I don't think the author gives Noah or his civilization nearly enough credit. Noah himself was eleven times older than I am and much closer to the original source of human intelligence—no doubt enormously smarter and more experienced. Biblical chronology would indicate roughly 1500 years from creation to the flood, which provides plenty of time for the accumulation of a vast amount of human technological knowledge, if in fact such was needed.

The idea that these were primitive nomads in long robes trying to construct an impossible structure in the middle of nowhere with a couple of axes is strictly from Sunday school—one of Moore's straw men. For all we know, Noah may have had both sophisticated know-how and extensive facilities available to him for the project. Who's to prove otherwise?

While I marvel at the accomplishment of such a large construction project, I do not by any means view it, like Mr. Moore, as an "impossible" job, even as an individual much younger-and-dumber than Noah.

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(2) I challenge Mr. Moore's assertion that "a shipyard in nineteenth-century Maine would have been overwhelmed by the size and complexity of this job." I happen to own and operate a small fabricating shop, and am somewhat familiar with other such shops in this area. I daresay Mr. Moore would be surprised at the "size and complexity" of the projects which are undertaken in such modest facilities. I see building the ark as a tremendous engineering and construction challenge, not an impossible dream, and I would actually love to have been involved in such a project. Since I'm a little late on the scene for that, I'll have to settle for speculating on how it might be done today if someone ordered a wooden barge 45 x 75 x 450 ft., for "delivery" in the year 2103.

(3) Metal working was apparently a known craft at the time the ark was built (Genesis 4/22), so the vessel need not to have been constructed of gopher wood only. My Timber Construction Manual outlines modern design practice for large structures using various metal fasteners, supports and accessories in addition to the timbers themselves. I see no reason why the ark might not have been constructed the same way.

(4) Mr. Moore's notions about the ark being slammed about and reduced to toothpicks simply do not seem valid for a vessel of that size and tonnage. It is the smaller ships that get knocked around like corks in a rough sea, not the big ones. I can visualize the ark plunging through sharp waves, but I cannot visualize it bobbing rapidly like the miniature model which was tank-tested for that film he refers to.

For that matter, nothing is given in the biblical account about the sea conditions which actually occurred during the flood, so we don't even know how rough the surface of the flood was, in order to determine the "design conditions" for roll, pitch, slamming, hogging and sagging.

In any case, the ark could have been designed as an internally-braced box (a very strong shape) for its intended purpose as a floating barge. There would be no need to get into the problems of propulsion and steering associated with sailing ships. Barges of about the size of the ark are made today right here in Pittsburgh.

(5) I visualize a design with the 45 x 75 foot cross section being divided up into perhaps 15 ft. x 15 ft. x 15 ft. crate-like sub-sections, individually constructed in jigs in repetitive fashion, or stick-built in place, to form a continuous lattice as shown in the attached illustration [see p. 41, top].

Appropriate X-bracing would be necessary of course, but need not be continuous once the box-shape is established as a reference foundation, any more than the bracing in a modem rectangular steel-framed building or a wood-frame house is continuous. Some of the X-ing could also come from the partitions closing off the naturally-formed "rooms" in the lattice structure, combining the functions of a structural membrane and a partition.

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This design pattern, establishing structural integrity and strength in each sub-structure, could be enlarged much as a crystal structure grows to practically any size, and for practically any service conditions, at least theoretically.

(6) Room-by-room, and section-by-section, the large, very strong framework of the ark would be constructed, needing only a skin of straight planks (no bending necessary!) and a coat of pitch from the La Brea Tar Pit Co. to complete the job. Whether the ark leaked like a sieve or not would depend on the specific fit and sealing of the individual planks in the skin. Assuming that the work was carefully done and the planks bolted or spiked in place, with provision for caulking if necessary in the joints, I would see no problem in achieving a relatively watertight hull. I have no idea what "gopher wood" was, but assume that it swelled when wet to further seal the skin.

(7) Construction could proceed with a small crew, using modular techniques as described. The "delivery time" was certainly long enough, so careful planning would be justified. I see no need for 100,000 slaves and NASA's nationwide facilities. The thing wasn't "delivered" anywhere, or even "launched." It was floated into service. That certainly would have been the "moment of truth" for the builders in more ways than one.

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(8) Now what's the matter with that, you anti-biblical skeptics? If you want to put my scheme to the test, send me a purchase order, and I'll build the whole thing on my own, property with four men!

Most of this is just my own brand of between-the-lines speculation, of course, and I do not represent myself as any kind of an "expert" on either shipbuilding or the Bible. It certainly makes intelligent sense, however, at least from an engineering and fabricating viewpoint, to consider the ark as a feasible, if ambitious, construction project. It doesn't require a "thoroughly senseless level of supernaturalism" at all, though I'm not discounting the necessity of that. It seems clear enough, at least with respect to this section of the article, that Mr. Moore's views are largely the result of a will-to-disbelieve rather than an intellectually honest concern with the scientific problems of the Genesis flood.

R. G. Elmendorf

Moore Replies to Elmendorf

The "straw men" which allegedly populate my article are not of my construction but are the work of the creationists themselves. I agree that the story in Genesis has many gaps, but they have been so thoroughly filled in by the fundamentalists that I have no need to set up any models of my own to demolish. And modern creationism is the target of my criticisms, not ancient Semitic myths.

Elmendorf would like to have an advanced pre-diluvian civilization easily capable of constructing the ark. But as I asked in the article, if such a world existed, where is the archaeological evidence for it? If the deluge occurred today, future researchers would find billions of artifacts permitting a thorough reconstruction of 20th century life, yet we are offered only the Paluxy River prints as evidence for any human existence at all! I also noted that Noah and his sons survived the flood by several centuries, but his "enormously" greater intelligence and experience contributed nothing to redeveloping civilization. It is easy to invent lost "Golden Ages"—Atlantis, Cibola, Pre-Diluvia—but without even one artifact I cannot accept such stories.

One of the most important "eyewitnesses" who has seen the ark on Mt. Ararat has stated that it was made entirely of wood, including even the nails. But even if metal was used, it would still not be strong enough; diagonal iron strapping was used on the six-masted schooners, which still leaked and were at the limit for sound wood construction. The highly skilled Maine shipyards built these largest of wooden boats, and still they leaked and were unsafe on the open seas. Noah needed a vessel much larger and stronger and completely secure. If the 19th century shipyards didn't come close to achieving this, why should we believe Noah did?

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Elmendorf ignored my objections to Noah obtaining pitch. He also missed my references to very large ships sinking in storms at sea. And he is simply wrong when he says that we don't have any idea how rough the sea was: the Bible has a forty-day storm burying the entire earth with water, even the mountain tops, and the "fountains of the great deep" opening up, resulting in the annihilation of all life outside the ark. We don't even need the addition of "flood geology" with its mountain-building, volcanism, and continent-splitting to have a cataclysm no ship could survive, but when we study the creationist model, it is clear that neither Noah, any shipyard anywhere, nor Elmendorf could construct a vessel that could make it.

Robert A. Moore

Farquhar Responds to Moore

Congratulations on Volume XI (Volume 4, No. 1)! I was delighted by Robert A. Moore's fascinating treatment of Noah's epic adventures. As a biological oceanographer who has studied deep scattering layers for many years, I often wondered how Noah accommodated mesopelagic fishes and crustaceans which make daily vertical excursions of some hundreds of meters as part of their normal behavior. Of course, in the creationists' antediluvian shallow seas, these animals had not yet evolved. Certainly the creationists would agree, though, that that vital element in the marine food chain—the phytoplankton—was there. One wonders how the myriad species of diatoms, nannoplankton, and other photosynthetic forms were able to get along in the dark confines of the Ark.

A few months ago, I began assembling notes and data for a book on the legend of Noah. Robert Moore's work will be extremely valuable to me.

While reading Mr. Moore's description of Noah's problems in feeding the animals, I thought about those 800 species of bats, at least half of which must be insectivorous. I had a mental picture of a stalwart crew member opening a large box full of moths every evening so that 800 whirling bats could properly eat. But then I remembered—bats hibernate.

G. Brooke Farquhar

Jukes Responds to Moore

That was a great issue by Robert Moore. If he had added some calculation on the water in the flood, it would have made the creationist case even worse. In my item "Two By Two" in Vol. 285 of Nature (May 15, 1980) on page 130 I wrote the following:

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If rain fell to a depth of 10,000 ft. (a conservative estimate, insufficient to cover the mountains; actually "all the high hills that were under the whole heaven were covered" and Mt. Ararat is 17,000 feet high), the volume of precipitation would have been 393,000,000 cubic miles, which is 1.4 times that of all the water presently on the earth. This rainfall occurred in 960 hours, at a daily rate of 104 ft. Its "drying up" took 167 days. Where did the water go? If it had rapidly entered the interior of the Earth, one would have expected numerous Krakatoa-like explosions. If it had escaped into outer space, why was not all the hydrosphere simultaneously dissipated?

Thomas H. Jukes

Edwords Replies to Jukes

I'm glad you liked Moore's article, but I think your arguments on the flood waters miss the mark. Let me explain.

Creationists hold that the current waters in the oceans are the flood waters. Before the flood, there were only streams and a few springs. All the water was either in the vapor canopy above the earth (which kept out the ultraviolet light and thus allowed there to be "giants in the earth in those days," and people living to those great biblical ages) or below the earth's crust. Most of the water was below so that when the "fountains of the great deep" opened up, all this water came on to the earth.

Now creationists are clear that Ararat was not as tall prior to the flood as it became during the flood. Everest didn't exist. There were only rolling hills in pre-diluvian times. So the present oceans, and the melting of the ice caps, could have covered everything. (Just imagine dumping the continents into the oceans and creating a level earth. Then put the present level of water over everything. That is roughly the creationist scenario for the first weeks of the flood.)

However, during the flood, but after the waters covered the highest mountains, mountain and continent formation began. Ararat rose, Everest formed, and so forth. So the flood was a messy affair, but there is no problem with where the water came from or went to. Creationists solve one problem by creating ten others!

Frederick Edwords

Jukes Replies Back to Edwords

I provided for an increased elevation of Mt. Ararat (17,000 feet) during the flood when I allowed only 10,000 feet of water depth. And remember, Genesis 7:20 states that the mountains were covered—not the "rolling hills." I had to postulate that the mountains were 10,000 feet high because many species are found only at high altitudes, and they can't have evolved since the flood. Therefore they were taken on the ark.

One correspondent actually took me to task for not submerging Mt. Everest!

Thomas H. Jukes

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Chambers Responds to Moore

In his last paragraph on page 10, concluding atop page 11, Moore writes, "Obviously, nearly any concessions, any margins of error, can be granted to the creationists within their geological framework and the flood water would remain a churning, boiling inferno, easily accomplishing God's intention of destroying the world." (Emphasis mine.)

I believe the statement I have emphasized is scientifically incorrect. Water (H2O) boils at merely 212°Fahrenheit. Moore has noted his calculations giving 2,700° Centigrade, based on creationist claims.

The two Soviet Venera spacecraft which perished on the surface of Venus were able to transmit the information that the surface temperature at their landing sites was between 485°C and 465°C, respectively. As you know, the surface of Venus contains no water, certainly no oceans.

Venutian surface pressure is 90 times that of earth. Its clouds contain sulphuric acid droplets, which may combine with flourine to make Venutian "rain" the most acid in the solar system. Carl Sagan has hypothesized that by "terra-forming" Venus, we could make it earth-like through the simple introduction of bacteria which produce oxygen, which could live in its upper cloud layer which is more like earth's tropics temperature-wise. This would not only change the chemical composition of Venutian clouds, it would change the ratio of chemicals, reducing the surface temperatures and allowing water to precipitate.

The main point in this letter, however, is much more simple. It is that there would be no oceans on earth at even 450°C. 212°F is enough, at sea level. Even less heat is needed on the Fahrenheit scale to make the oceans boil at the height of Mt. Ararat, 16,945 ft. As any mountain climber knows, water boils at lower temperatures the higher you climb.

Simple boiling of water is enough to vaporize all the oceans of the earth into steam. And only through cooling do the molecules reform into water droplets.

The best Noah could have hoped for, with all that vulcanism, was a boat with wheels until the earth cooled sufficiently to allow the oceans to reprecipitate.

The Bible speaks of the flood waters receding, but nowhere does it claim Noah and his captive zoo spent any time on dry land, until settling on Ararat.

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No matter how foolish creationist claims may be, there would simply be no oceans, no "churning, boiling inferno" as Moore has allowed them.

Earth would be far more like Venus, with a staggering increase in atmospheric pressure to ninety times that of earth, at even 450°C. At 2,700°C, I would speculate that everything would be red hot lava, but I am uncertain on that point.

Otherwise, I feel Moore has done splendidly. I would like to have seen something done on the increase in the sheer weight of the planet with an added mantle of at least 16,000 vertical feet of water. What would this do to the earth's rotational speed? Slow it down, or stop it altogether, I'd speculate. Or, possibly it might speed it up. I don't know. But in any case, this is crucial, thanks to the laws of angular momentum (which, I suppose, God would merely "amend" for a time). Dennis Rawlins and I worked this out once, with the conclusion that it would slow or stop the earth, but not the Moon's rotation, causing interesting problems with gravity, possibly the loss into the outer stratosphere of everything not tied down, oceans and all, along with Mr. and Mrs. Noah and their bestiary. (Yes, we allowed for the melting first of the north and south polar ice-caps, but we used the height of Mt. Everest, almost twice that of Ararat, on the assumption that God, perhaps not Noah, knew Everest existed.)

Like David Milne always says, "creationism is more fun than science"!

Bette Chambers

Osmon Replies to Chambers

Did Bette Chambers really catch one? Did the oceans turn to steam? Did Moore give the creationists oceans when they didn't deserve them? Well, it depends on how much heat is available. It takes only a little heat to warm water (only one calorie per gram of water to raise its temperature 1°C). But it takes a lot of heat to convert hot water to steam. (It takes 540 calories to vaporize one gram of water at boiling point.)

So the question is: was there enough heat available to turn the water present to steam? To make her case, Ms. Chambers must show that the creationist descriptions of this catastrophe provide enough energy. Moore gives some clues for calculating this energy. For example, Whitcomb and Morris talk about a gigantic catastrophe exceeding the energy of hundreds of hydrogen bombs. Whitcomb speaks of hundreds of active volcanoes in a later work. So perhaps there is enough energy. But can you hold the creationists to this? Remember how they used to talk about half of the flood water coming from the "vapor canopy"? In their current flood scenario the greater portion of the water came from reservoirs in the earth (and poured out through miraculous means). So if Ms. Chambers succeeds, she will force creationists to make further amendments. The whole exercise is valuable in exposing the artifice of the creation model as a ploy for evangelizing in public schools.

Philip Osmon

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Chambers Replies Back to Osmon

I'm truly sorry I cannot satisfy Mr. Osmon's quite proper question, namely experimental proof that my surmise is correct (i.e. demonstrable) that Moore gave the creationists too much.

I simply have no laboratory or other facilities for such a demonstration. Yet, something tells me that Moore's own calculations, that the vulcanism and heat created by the grinding of the earth's crust (plate tectonics taking place in so short a time) would produce 2,700°C.

Moore cites his sources for that estimation. And 2,700°C is damned hot. It is exactly six times as hot as the landscape of Venus (450°C).

There are more questions involved than how fast one could heat however many billion kilotons of water. First, obviously, one must calculate how much water there would be on the planet to achieve the scenario in the ark story. However, if theories about Venus are correct, other elements and molecules undergo change as well. Some hold Venus once had water vapor, at the very least. However, none presently exists, or, so little as to be negligible. Instead, flourosulphuric acid vapor forms the "rain" occurring on Venus. The notion of Carl Sagan that Venus can be "terraformed" by the introduction of oxygen-producing bacteria suggests that all sorts of different things happen to molecular combinations at high temperatures, even 450°C, and that the release of atmospheric oxygen would itself lower the Veneran temperatures to a more earth-like level.

I "suspect" that given the year or so Noah had to be puttering around with his bestiary, it would have become so hot at 2,700°C that the earth's oceans would have boiled away.

But Mr. Osmon's point is terribly important. This needs demonstration, not speculation. And, I can't demonstrate it. Can Moore?

Bette Chambers

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Moore Replies to Chambers and Osmon

On the question of the ocean's temperature, I would strongly suspect that 2,700°C would be sufficient to overcome any vapor pressure or other obstacles and turn the oceans into steam. The thought certainly occurred to me at the time I researched it. However, I didn't pursue it primarily because my article focused on the ark and its problems rather than on the flood per se, which deserves a story in its own right. For my purposes it seemed adequate to show that the oceans would've been unsurvivably hot and tumultuous; exactly how hot seemed less important. It would be interesting to explore the various meteorological and geophysical difficulties involved with the deluge. How could a severe storm last continuously over the entire globe for forty days and nights? What unusual currents and waves would form in a single worldwide ocean ravaged by hurricane winds, earthquakes, etc.? What effect would all this chaos have on the earth's rotation-or even the moon's? Could one even breathe if the air had a three billion years' supply of volcanic dust in it? Would the oceans boil away? Such questions were beyond the scope of my article, but I think the point I sought is established past any doubt: no life could have survived the flood, either aboard ship or off—and no ark, however well built, could've survived either.

Robert A. Moore
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