- GALLARATE, Italy (Reuters) - Nestled on the snowy cap of Mount Ararat,
lodged in ice, lies the shadowy form of a boat the size of a battleship.
- ``Hallelujah,'' cried a triumphant Antonio
Palego as he set eyes on the legendary vessel after trekking up the mountain
for days on foot and donkey. ``It's Noah's Ark!''
- Skeptics may dismiss Noah and his Ark
as a childish myth of a white-bearded old man saving animals and mankind
with his homemade boat, but explorer and Bible scholar Palego says he has
found the real thing perched on Mount Ararat in Turkey.
- Using intricate calculations based on
the story in the Bible's Book of Genesis, the Italian explorer says the
ark has been preserved in ice for over 4,000 years.
- Laying out a series of grainy photos
on his kitchen table back home in northern Italy, the 63-year-old former
chemist points out the form of the huge boat estimated to be 512 feet long,
82 feet wide and 50 feet high with enough space to fit 800 trains.
- A small piece of wood found in the same
area by a French explorer friend and authenticated as dating from the time
of the flood is physical evidence of his find, he says.
- Palego isn't the first to claim to have
found Noah's Ark.
- Assorted ark hunters including scientists,
archeologists and geologists also say they have unearthed the famous craft
in various locations.
- In Australia, two scientists sued creationist
Allen Roberts for misleading and deceptive conduct after he claimed to
have found scientific evidence of Noah's Ark 20 miles southeast of Mount
Ararat. A judge dismissed the case.
- The CIA believed it had stumbled on evidence
that the Old Testament's evocative fable was true when a U.S. spy plane
bound for military bases in the former Soviet Union took photographs of
what appeared to be a vessel on the mountain.
- Some ark hunters have even gone on to
build their own replicas. A pastor in the United States has been busy rebuilding
the ark since he said he had visions from God.
- ``Many explorers, especially American,
say they have found the ark, but their sightings do not correspond with
the Bible's coordinates,'' Palego said. ``The CIA decided not to publish
their photos after we highlighted that their vessel was not the right size.''
- According to the Book of Genesis, Noah
built an ark 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high and loaded
two of every species on board. A cubit equals about 20 inches.
- The Bible says: ``God said unto Noah
the end of all flesh has come before me...make thee an Ark of gopher wood.''
- Noah set sail and after 40 days and nights
of rain that flooded the world, the waters receded and the vessel came
to rest on Mount Ararat in northeastern Turkey.
- Skeptics say Noah would have needed to
load 460 organisms a second into the Ark to get two of each species on
board within 24 hours, not to mention the tons of urine and excrement.
- But creationists say there is circumstantial
evidence to back the story.
- A group of scientists found evidence
of an enormous deluge with 200 times the force of Niagara Falls roughly
7,000 years ago, as glaciers melted causing a huge plug of silt separating
the then freshwater Black Sea from the Mediterranean. But this predated
the Biblical myth.
- While meteorologists have found no trace
of a worldwide flood, they suspect it could have been a local incident,
confined to the region around the eastern Mediterranean.
- Indeed, another team of geologists found
evidence of a flood about 4,000 years ago during excavations of the ancient
Sumerian city of Ur near the Euphrates river in Iraq.
- In terms of hard evidence, a group of
geologists exploring Mount Ararat found rocks with holes in them resembling
``drogue stones'' which were dragged behind ancient ships for stability.
- Palego says he just needs to get to his
site to collect more evidence. So far, he has only seen it from a distance
during his 13 expeditions to the mountain.
- The explorer has yet to get authorization
from Turkey to take a helicopter, which an Italian television station has
agreed to pay for, into the highly sensitive military area where he was
once taken hostage by Kurds.
- ``We've asked the Turkish government
to let us go in and I won't give up until I get there,'' said Palego. ``This
is my mission.''