Noah’s Ark replica race is on

Noah's Ark. Does Michael Gungor mean to call this a lie?
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The latest full-sized Noah’s Ark replica is already taking shape—but not in Kentucky. It’s in Holland, it will float, and will have a real zoo on board.

An experienced Arkwright

Johan Huibers, 60, of Rotterdam, brings experience to his project. Six years ago he built a smaller floating Noah’s Ark replica. This model was 225 feet in length, 30 feet in beam and 45 feet in height. So it had half the length, two-thirds the beam, and one-third the carrying capacity of the original. But it actually floated and had a small petting zoo on the weather deck.

Two years ago Huibers began building another Noah’s Ark replica. This one is the same size as the original, or near to it: 450 feet long, 75 feet in beam and 45 feet in height. Like the replica he built before, this one floats on a set of barges lashed together. But the new one has the same cargo space as the original, and Huibers has made good use of it.

The top deck will have living quarters for Huibers and his wife, and a free-flight aviary. The middle deck will have the live-animal zoo. The lower deck will hold models of larger animals, plus two conference rooms with combined seating for 1500 attendees.

The project cost about 1 million ($1.5 million US) to build. Huibers hopes to sail his Noah’s Ark replica (or take it in tow) across the English Channel and up the Thames River to London for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

Is this a good Noah’s Ark replica?

Huibers’ full-sized Noah’s Ark replica has provoked debate. It begins with whether the Global Flood ever happened, of course. Beyond that:

  1. Huibers built his Noah’s Ark replica on a set of barges. Without them, his vessel might not be seaworthy. Nor does he seem to have consulted any ancient sources to learn how to build a leak-proof hull from wood.
  2. Huibers assumes that Swedish pine was the “gopher wood” that the Bible mentions. Huibers translated the Hebrew etz-gofer as “resin wood.” But gofer appears only once in the Bible and never in any other piece of Hebrew literature. So no one can be quite sure what it means.

The Kentucky Noah’s Ark replica

Meanwhile, the investors who hope to build a full-scale Noah’s Ark replica on land announced a fund-raising milestone. They have now raised more than $3 million to build their replica. Ark Encounter LLC redesigned their web site, making it much more interactive, to celebrate. They plan to raise about $25 million in donations to build the Noah’s Ark replica. They already have $125 million more from investors to build seven other attractions for an 800-acre theme park. Ark Encounter’s Noah’s Ark replica will rest on land, as the original did before it launched. Its design draws from the designs of the ancient war galleys that once sailed the Mediterranean.

The Kentucky replica will at least look like a ship that might be seaworthy. But comparing the two projects raises two questions:

  1. Why does the Kentucky replica cost sixteen times as much as the Rotterdam replica? (That’s the price of the Noah’s Ark replica alone, not the seven other attractions and Greek-style amphitheater.)
  2. Two of the Kentucky attractions—the aviary and the zoo—are separate from the Noah’s Ark replica. Huibers has both on board. They are smaller than their Kentucky counterparts. But a functioning vessel with its own aviary and zoo might better impress people than an empty vessel might.

Huibers does not pretend to carry as many land animals or birds on board as Noah carried. His aviary and zoo are semi-permanent habitats, not temporary emergency transport. The Kentucky vessel will probably have as many stalls in it as the original had.

A future Noah’s Ark replica?

Obviously neither vessel will be perfect. But the quest to build the perfect Noah’s Ark replica need not stop with these projects. Maybe a future Arkwright will build a vessel similar to the Ark Encounter design, on lashed-together barges like those that Huibers used—and then release the barges and let the vessel float on its own. Maybe then the builder can take it out for real sea trials. And for the last trial, he could transport live animals in it, to show how an eight-person crew could care for them during a 150-day voyage.

But both projects will be inspiring. Huibers and Ark Encounter LLC share this goal: to make people think about the original story and its message of salvation.

Featured image: a model of Noah’s Ark under construction. Photo: Creation Museum; taken and used by permission.