Finders of the lost ark

Finders of the lost ark

In a new documentary, Hong Kong explorers tell how they uncovered Noah's vessel

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Andrew Yuen of The Media Evangelism Ltd says he is convinced that what they found on Mount Ararat was the biblical Noah's ark.
Andrew Yuen of The Media Evangelism Ltd says he is convinced that what they found on Mount Ararat was the biblical Noah's ark.
Photo: May Tse/SCMP
Depending on whom you ask, it's either the most amazing find in history - or a massive practical joke. On one side is Noah's Ark Ministries International (Nami), who have claimed, on several occasions, to have found remnants of the biblical Noah's ark. On the other - this group is a lot larger - are sceptics who think the discovery is nothing more than a big hoax.

A Hong Kong-Turkish team from Nami made headlines in May last year when they claimed they had discovered Noah's ark. The team videotaped their expedition.

Now, almost a year and a half later, they have released their findings in the documentary The Days of Noah 2 - Apocalypse.

In August 2006, professional mountain climber Ahmet Ertugrul, also known as Parasut, claimed he had found a wooden structure 4,000 metres above sea level on Mount Ararat in Turkey.

The University of Hong Kong's department of earth sciences examined wood samples from the structure and confirmed they were petrified wood - wood that has turned into stone over hundreds of years.

In September 2008, Parasut made his way to the ark once again and came back with a collection of photos.

"In 2008, we received photos from the Kurdish [Parasut]," says Andrew Yuen Man-fai, general secretary of Christian media group The Media Evangelism Ltd and a member of the Hong Kong ark search team.

"We had no idea about this site that they found. They said it was a dangerous location and very difficult to get to. We wanted someone from our camp to see it first."

The team sent climbing expert Panda Lee Yiu-fai to take a look. He came back with more photos and video images of the supposed ark.

In October 2009, a team of 15 people, including six from Nami in Hong Kong, made their way to the snow-capped cave. During their journey, they had to cope with difficult terrain and stormy weather.

Eventually they reached their destination, guided, Yuen says, by the "invisible hand" of God.

Their journey, along with footage filmed inside the ark, makes up about two-thirds of The Days of Noah 2. The rest of the film includes history, re-enactments and a presentation about the end of the world. The team found seven spaces inside the wooden structure.

"There were certain details, craftsmanship that hinted it was the ark," Yuen says. "Instead of nails, the wood is connected very much like a jigsaw puzzle. It is placed together, and once it encounters water, it will expand and be secured tightly together."

Their claim to have found the ark came under intense scrutiny. Strong criticism came from theologian and archaeologist Randall Price, who claims that a team, led by Parasut, built the site out of materials from the city of Trabzon near the Black Sea. In a document more than 50 pages long, Price attacks Nami's claims.

His report accepts that the team did find a wooden structure on Mount Ararat but says it was constructed by workers employed by Parasut. He concludes that Nami may have been a victim of Parasut's hoax.

"We didn't find anything that was not real," Yuen says. "If we did, we would have ended the expedition. If one was to make a set of this magnitude, by digging through ice and land, the money needed to do that would be more than the actual expedition cost."

The Days of Noah, a film released in 2005, reported on Nami's earlier attempts this century to find the ark. Yuen says they found it, but a "mysterious force" caused their cameras to malfunction.

That site has since been destroyed by earthquakes. According to the new film, over the years, natural events caused the ark to split into three sections.

Nami's earlier research led to the creation of the built-to-scale ark at Ma Wan Park in the New Territories.

The Days of Noah 2 - Apocalypse is now showing in local cinemas

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