While there could be other solutions to the design of Noah's Ark that would still comply with the biblical specifications. Here, we attempt to combine modern knowledge of how a ship behaves in the water with some of the surprising technology of ancient shipwrights.
Demonstrated. Is the rigid sail really necessary? And why the underwater projection? ... It almost looks like the bulbous bow of a modern tanker, or is it related to the ramming bow of a Greek trireme?
These features work together to control the Ark, using the wind (Gen 8:1) to maintain direction and avoid broaching. > See video demonstrations here
The rigid, fin-like structure at the bow of the Ark helps to keep the vessel pointing downwind. This works in conjunction with a submerged projection at the stern, causing the vessel to align itself perpendicular to wind driven waves. This gives the most comfortable ride possible, and lowers the risk of capsize in extreme seas. It also makes some sense of the otherwise mysteriously long proportions of this particular 'lifeboat"1. Noah's Ark is six times as long as it is wide, yet most lifeboats are more stout than this. So if it wasn't meant to travel fast, why was Noah's "lifeboat" so slender?
Enough words. Let's see the "sail-fin" in action.
If it "just had to float" it would have saved Noah a lot of time and effort to build a "just had to float" kind of boat. A long hull is more difficult, so it needs a good reason, like speed for instance. This is what the clipper sailing ships of the 1800's were designed for. Noah's Ark had a similar length to breadth ratio, yet it didn't have to race anywhere.
It would have been tempting to shorten the vessel and save some work. Here's why;
Broaching4 is when waves turn a ship side-on. This can even result in capsize in heavy seas. Any long object floating in the water will be turned sideways (wave induced yaw). Basic physical laws drive a buoyant object towards its lowest energy state, and roll motion has the least inertia. Without power or navigational control, a ship is simply "caught in the trough of the waves". The proportions of Noah's Ark are no exception. In fact, it's long length is a disadvantage in a regular sea (Gen 8:1) where a steady wind generates near parallel wave fronts.
Watch what happens seconds after a 6ft (2m) model of biblical proportions (300x50x30) is left drifting in wind-generated waves.
The sail-fin must be big enough to overcome the turning effect (yaw) of the waves. This means it can't be trivial.
However, the upturned stems of ancient ships and the huge areas of sail on the "windjammers" mean that a sailfin of a large size is viable. Since no adjustments are needed, a rigid wooden structure can be used, rather than troublesome canvas. It must also be big enough to ensure correct operation even if the wind begins to die down. If it is unable to overcome wave yaw at the most dangerous time, it has failed.
One side effect of the sailfin is that it helps to dampen roll and increase roll inertia. A century ago as steam power was replacing sail, roll was suddenly a big problem. The huge masts had been suppressing roll motion.
While the sail-fin pulls the bow around to point with the wind, the submerged stern projection does exactly the opposite - prevents the stern being pushed to the front.
Does it really work? This feature is a like a skeg or a fixed rudder. Even on unpowered barges design to be towed, a skeg helps to give directional stability in the open sea. Most ships have a skeg-like structure of some description. The reason? So the stern can't go sideways.
A submerged projection may look familiar - like the ramming bow of a Greek Trireme. However, depictions of ships from thousands of years earlier show a similar feature. Historians call it a mystery.3 It makes more sense that the first ship in post-flood history (Noah's Ark) set the precedent, and this became the standard way to do things - even when a ship is too small to really need it.
1. A shorter hull is stronger, and being wider and taller, would also be more stable. Strength and stability both push for a shorter length. See Why Such a Long Hull? Return to text
2. ABS Rules. American Bureau of Shipping. See Wave Bending Moment. Return to text
3. Could ancient ships give any clues about Noah's Ark? Since the Ark is the first ship in our history, it is like a prototype for Noah's descendents. If certain features emerge in the depictions of ancient ships they might be derived from Noah's Ark. See Flood Legends. Return to text
4. See Wave Yaw and Broaching. Return to text
5. "Aft-sail is sometimes convenient and safe for the operation of a small fishing boat, as it automatically turns the ship’s heading to the weather side." A summarizing remark (1 of 4) by Yoshimura, Yasuo., A Prospect of Sail-Assisted Fishing Boats, Proceedings of International Commemorative Symposium - 70th Anniversary of the Japanese Society of Fisheries Science, October 1-5, 2001, Yokohama. http://eprints.lib.hokudai.ac.jp/dspace/bitstream/2115/621/1/JFSF2000.PDF Return to text