The Science of the Bible: The Ark

Excerpt from When God Speaks for Himself: The Words of God You’ll NEVER Hear in Church or Sunday School, by Mark Tier and George Forrai (Inverse Books, 2016). Reprinted with permission from Mark Tier.

From Chapter 4: Reason, Science and the Church

The Science of the Bible:

The Ark

Noah’s Ark, according to God’s instructions, was to carry “every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shall thee bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female” [Genesis 7:19] (but seven of “every clean beast[1]…[and] fowls also of the air” [Genesis 7:2-3]).

Exactly how many animals is “every sort”? Today, there are 1,250,000 known animal species (including insects, fishes, reptiles, amphibians, mollusks, and, of course, mammals) — and, perhaps, many more. Assuming Noah didn’t need to take the 30,000-odd salt-water fishes, he “only” had to carry 1,220,000 species — or 2.4 million insects and animals, with one of each sex. Plus the food to keep them all alive for 150 days.[2]

To put this in perspective, the San Diego Zoo is the world’s largest. It covers 100 acres and employs 1,900 staff to look after just 4,000 animals from 800 species — 0.07% of the number of species Noah and his family had to contend with.

So exactly what sort of vessel was the ark?

God’s instructions on the design and building of the ark are very clear [Genesis 6:14-15]:

14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood;[3] rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.

15 And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.

Using the standardized measure of one cubit = .472 meters, the ark’s length of 300 cubits is 141.6 meters or 464.5 feet; its height of thirty cubits is 14.2 meters or 46.5 feet.

God doesn’t specify the beam (or width). So let’s look at a similar ship, the six-masted schooner Wyoming, which is the largest wooden ship ever built in recorded history; it was completed in 1909 in Bath, Maine.

The Wyoming was 100.4 meters long (140 meters including the jib and spanker booms — about as long as a 30-storey building is high) and 15.3 meters wide; nearly as big as a modern-day US Navy frigate.

The Wyoming’s draft was 9.3 meters — so it needed a depth of 10 meters at the bare minimum or it would run aground. Given that God’s flood covered the world only to a depth of 15 cubits, or 7.08 meters, if the ark was anything like the Wyoming it would never have left the ground.

Of course the Ark, unlike the Wyoming, wasn’t going anywhere. But if the tip of Mount Everest was covered at low tide, with no land to disperse storms the seas would have been ferocious — not to mention the blinding rain and icebergs (ice floats on water, so the polar icecaps would break up), some, no doubt, bigger than the Titanic. So the Ark would have had to have been a very strong ship — and Noah an excellent sailor.

The Wyoming had a cargo capacity of 8,600 cubic meters. If Noah’s Ark had a similar capacity, the two animals of each species could be allocated an average space of just seven cubic millimeters. That’s a tiny cube just 2.65 millimeters or about one inch per side. And that calculation doesn’t allow for any storage space for the animals’ food.

So the ark must have been significantly bigger than the Wyoming — bigger, at least than the world’s largest supertanker!

The Wyoming was built in a shipyard by hundreds of experienced carpenters, shipwrights, and workmen using modern technology. Nevertheless, when the Wyoming put to sea it had a serious problem: due to the length of its wooden construction it flexed in high seas — and constantly leaked. Its crew of thirteen to fourteen had to continually pump water out to keep the Wyoming from sinking.

The Ark, by comparison, had a crew of just eight people. And while the crew of the Wyoming only had to sail their vessel, the crew of the Ark also had to look after two and a half million animals: not only feed them, but shovel their excrement over the side. (Think of hippopotami, giraffes, rhinos and elephants — just to start with!)

In sum, the Ark had to have been a far bigger vessel than the Wyoming — and so far more complex. There’s no mention in the Bible that God helped Noah build the Ark, or sail it — and nor is there any suggestion that Noah had any expertise as a shipwright.

There is just one clue to a possible solution, however: Genesis 5:32 tells us that “Noah was five hundred years old.” The rains that caused the flood began on Noah’s six hundredth birthday [Genesis 7:11]: perhaps because it took him a hundred years to build the monster Ark with the available, primitive, technology.[4]

One other thing: Genesis 7:4 tells us that God gave Noah just seven days’ notice of the coming flood. Only then did Noah set out to collect the animals — all 2,440,000+ of them.

A super-human effort indeed!

After the Flood

After the flood “God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply” [Genesis 9:1].

Reading the rest of Genesis chapter 9 and beyond, it’s quite clear that’s exactly what Noah and the animals did.

There’s just one problem.

After being under water for 150 days, all vegetable life would die. The whole land would be a muddy desert. So after the flood, what did Noah and the animals he carried on the ark eat?

God’s instructions to Noah do not include collecting the seeds of all plant species to re-vegetate the dead, post-flood earth — or carrying enough food to last until the first harvest came in.

Excerpted from When God Speaks for Himself by Mark Tier and George Forrai. Copyright © Mark Tier and Pronto Express, 2010. All rights reserved.


[1] That can be eaten according to Jewish dietary laws.

[2] “And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days” [Genesis 6:24].

[3] What is “gopher wood”? Nobody knows. Various possibilities suggested include cypress, pine, cedar, “squared timber” or possibly even willow-branches and palm leaves woven together like basket-work with bitumen on the inside — this type of vessel was known as “kufa” (From the Jewish Encyclopedia: “kufa” (Arabic, “kufr” = Hebrew “kofer” = “gofer”).

[4] But if Noah was 600 years old, how come he had only three children.

Mark TierMark Tier, an Australian based in Hong Kong, started writing when he was 14 – and hasn’t stopped since. His first work, Understanding Inflation, was a bestseller in his native Australia in 1974. That was followed by The Nature of Market Cycles, How To Get A Second Passport, and The Winning Investment Habits of Warren Buffett & George Soros, which has been published in 3 English (New York, London, & Hong Kong) and 11 other-language editions. Once labelled “the Eclectic Investor” for his wide range of interests, he co-edited two science fiction anthologies which won a Prometheus Award in 2005, an analysis of Christianity, When God Speaks for Himself, and a political thriller, Trust Your Enemies. His website is marktier.com.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Jews date the earth , the 'heavens' and light itself at 5778 years old (todays date SHVAT 5778). Creation week was approx Oct. 6th, 3761 BCE (equivalent). Biblical linage from ADAM to biblical flood is 1656 years. Making 2104 BCE (equiv.) the year of the 'FLOOD'. Noah was portrayed as living another 350 years (till 1,754 BCE) ; Shem another 500 years (till approx. 1,604 BCE).. There should be a great effort to make it known that the entire Shem Sham is the most preposterous fable ever to be presented as historical fact.. There should be a decided effort to bring to light the fundamentals of the dates which the JEWS claim as being legitimate. One need only look at the JERUSALEM POST or HAARETZ news sites to verify this date (5778) is the official date of the 'nation' of 'Israel'… Noah, Shem, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon etc.. never existed AS PORTRAYED… ALL of history and multi millions of facts and artifacts are on display in every major museum refuting this SHEM SHAM … there should be a large reward offered in a full page ad in the NEW YORK TIMES and other major newspapers for anyone who can provide one splinter of genuine verified evidence that SHEM ever existed AS PORTRAYED… It would be a good way to get some publicity to bring to light the 21st perspective on theses primitive fables… I would donate to such a cause.. and perhaps many others would as well….

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