High Launch Site     Home   Menu   Copyright Tim Lovett April 2004

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Arguments for a 'high altitude' launch site for Noah's Ark.  

 

Caption competition.

"You're right Shem, we should have built it on a hill...whooooh..."

"For any angle up to 90o, the ark would right itself." Morris 1971

"the ark was extremely stable, even in 210 knot winds..." Collins 1977

"Dear sceptic, Is this what you mean?."

"Endangered species"

"Surfing the World Wide Wet"

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The Flood Verses. Genesis 7:17-20

 

17 Now the flood was on the earth forty days. The waters increased and lifted up the ark, and it rose high above the earth.
18 The waters prevailed and greatly increased on the earth, and the ark moved about on the surface of the waters.
19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered.
20 The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered.

(NKJV)

 

At least it is obvious that the ark was not in the water before the flood arrived. This is very important because it means we know the flood was the launching method, which dictates to some extent the conditions of the flood at that time.  Certainly the ideas of a pre-launched ark cannot be justified according to Genesis 7:17.

 

Reading these verses however, one would naturally assume the ark was buoyed before the highest hill disappeared underwater. But there are a number of problems with this;

 

1. If the flood was still increasing, strong currents are likely - a serious problem for the launch. We know there were strong currents because the strata shows it, rapid flooding must include it, and the word for flood implies it    mabbuwl  This is instant ark destruction - either by boulders and floating debris hitting the ark,  the ark being carried at high speed and running aground. Anchorage in such a current is an unthinkable loading for the timber hull. 

2. There is a shipwreck danger for the ark if mountains are nearby, particularly in strong currents. It is not anchored anyway, according to verse 18

3. If mountains are distant, how could he see them? How could he see anything in the rain? 

4. Why the specific detail about the 15 cubit clearance over the mountain tops? Noah's numbers are usually treated very seriously, so this one must mean something.

 

It is interesting to ponder how Noah knew the hills were covered in the pouring rain. It is very unlikely he would have seen beyond the edge of the roof, let alone to some distant mountain. Besides this, how could Noah measure submerged mountaintops during a flood? Yet Noah includes this detail with some precision, and coming from Noah, we should take notice. 

 

 

1897 Interlinear Translation of the Hebrew Old Testament

We will study each verse more closely.

 

Genesis 7:17 And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth.

 

 

English

Strong's

 Hebrew

 Meaning 

And the flood

3999

   mabbuwl

flood, deluge - with a sense of flowing.

was forty

0705

   'arba`iym

forty

days

3117

   yowm

24 hours

upon the earth;

0776

   'erets

land, earth, ground

and the waters

4325

   mayim

water

increased,

7235

   rabah

grow, multiply, enlarge

and bare up

5375

   nasa'

lift, carry, support, take away, assist

the ark,

8392

   tebah

Noah's vessel, baby Moses basket

and it was lift up

7311

   ruwm

raised, set high, exalted

above the earth.

0776

   'erets

land, earth, ground

 

Genesis 7:18 And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters.

 

 

English

Strong's

 Hebrew

 Meaning 

And the waters

4325

   mayim

water

prevailed,

1396

   gabar

strong, mighty 

and were increased

7235

   rabah

grow, multiply, enlarge

greatly

3966

   m@`od

exceedingly, to a great degree

upon the earth

0766

   'erets

land, earth, ground

and the ark

8392

   tebah

Noah's vessel, baby Moses basket

went

3212

   yalak

to go, depart, proceed, move, go away

upon the face

6440

   paniym

surface

of the waters

4325

   mayim

water

 

Genesis 7:19  And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that [were] under the whole heaven, were covered.

 

English

Strong's

 Hebrew

  Meaning 

And the waters

4325

   mayim

water

prevailed,

1396

   gabar

strong, mighty 

exceedingly

3966

   m@`od

exceedingly, to a great degree

upon the earth

0766

   'erets

land, earth, ground

and all the high

1364

   gaboahh

high, tall, lofty

hills

2022

   har

mountains

that (were) under

8478

   tachath

beneath

the whole heaven

8064

   shamayim

sky, atmosphere 

were covered

3680

   kacah

concealed, hidden, clothed

 

 

Genesis 7:20  Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.

 

 

English

Strong's

 Hebrew

   Meaning 

Fifteen

6240 + 2568

   `asar  +    chamesh

fifteen

cubits

0520

   'ammah

cubit - forearm length 

upward

4605

   ma`al

higher, above

did the waters

4325

   mayim

water

prevail

1396

   gabar

strong, mighty 

and the mountains

2022

   har

mountains

were covered

3680

   kacah

concealed, hidden, clothed 

 

 

Obviously there are problems with   gaboahh  +   har as "high hills" rather than "high mountains". In the other 7 occurrences out of 8, the KJV uses "high mountains". Besides, there is a good word for smaller hills.   gibah. 

The following Young's translation seems a lot more accurate, and shows a rather interesting change to the past tense for the water in verses 19 and 20. Since Hebrew doesn't have the is/was tense, this decision would depend on the grammatical context.

 

Young's Literal Translation (1898) 

17 And the deluge is forty days on the earth, and the waters multiply, and lift up the ark, and it is raised up from off the earth;

18 and the waters are mighty, and multiply exceedingly upon the earth; and the ark goeth on the face of the waters.

19 And the waters have been very very mighty on the earth, and covered are all the high mountains which are under the whole heavens;

20 fifteen cubits upwards have the waters become mighty, and the mountains are covered;

http://www.crosswire.org/sword/biblenew/parallelstudy.jsp?add=YLT#cv

 

Consider these verses in terms of the subject being referenced. In verses 17 and 18 the ark is the subject, while verses 19 and 20 put the mountains in focus. Combined with this idea is the change of tense in the latter verses, which could indicate a re-appraisal of the flood description rather than a continuation of the course of events. In other words, verse 19 and 20 could be treated as a reiteration of the scale of the flood, not a progression of water level from ark launch to hills to mountains. 

 

In a more readable style, it might say something like this;.

The deluge went for 40 days and then lifted the ark. The water increased over the earth and the ark moved away. Those waters were so huge they had covered the highest mountain by 15 cubits.

 

This means that a pre-peak launch is not the only viable interpretation. The launch of the ark from the highest peak (at the time) is not an impossible position scripturally, and it might go some way to explain the 15 cubit measurement. 

 


 

A Suggested Launch Scenario (Highest Peak)

 

Henry Morris took the draft of the ark as 15 cubits. Morris had taken Gen 7:20 to refer to the clearance of the ark over the mountain tops, his reasoning went like this: Since he didn't run aground, Noah assumed that the flood was (at least) 15 cubits beyond the peaks. It appears this interpretation is quite possible, perhaps it was a deduction that Noah made once the rain stopped and he saw (and felt) no mountains.

However, the D/2 draft (15 cubits) first mentioned by Morris is difficult to achieve without significant ballast owing to the low density of the ark's cargo. This draft was completely ignored by Collins but was used again by Hong et al. 

 

We will assume a lighter cargo, giving the ark had a draft of approx D/3 - say 10 to 12 cubits. This has been independently arrived at by myself (using Woodmorappe's data) and Collins 1977. Since Noah knew a big flood was coming he builds the ark on the top of the highest mountain he can find. The mountain is not very high by modern standards and certainly not a pointed Matterhorn style peak, but much more like a raised plateau of significant horizontal scale, providing ample construction room.

 

None of these around - certainly a post-flood mountain - Matterhorn.

The highest plateau or mesa as a site for the ark construction. Up to approx 1500m.

 

The construction would almost certainly require 3 or 4 cubit clearance underneath the ark to enable access to the underside of the keel, hence the need for a 15 cubit flood level to launch the ark. Knowing this, Noah would have an accurate measurement of the submersion of the highest peak, accurate enough to record it alongside his other critical measurements.

Another launch issue is people. The flood must have come very quickly otherwise the ark should have been attacked. Since the mountain kept the ark high and dry for perhaps as long as 40 days, no other inhabitants should be on the mountain at that time. This would imply a certain amount of isolation for the site, and perhaps an unexpected (like a thief) timing for the initiation of the flood, such as midnight.

 

 

Advantages of the Peak Site

1. Tsunami protection

2. Requires maximum faith

3. The most extreme absurdity for ante-diluvian observers

4. Highly visible 'sermon on a mount'

5. Minimizes flood currents during launch

6. Accurately measures the 15 cubit flood peak

7. Implied remoteness of the site might explain lack of any record of direct attacks during construction

8. Favours irrelevance rather than conflict as the primary response of observers, as Jesus implied. 

 

Disadvantages of the Peak Site

1. Depends on a reiterated rather than strict chronological sequence of Genesis 7:17-20 

2. Carrying materials uphill

 

Conclusion

If the scriptures can permit it, the peak site looks the most logical place to locate the ark construction site.

 

 

Unless otherwise referenced, the above data was assembled from the free online Hebrew lexicon based on the KJV called the Blue Letter Bible.  

For example: Looking up the Hebrew word for High in high hills, is Strong's 1364 geboahh;

Blue Letter Bible. "Lexicon and Strong's Concordance Search for 01364" . Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2002. 25 Apr 2004. <http://www.blueletterbible.org/cgi-bin/strongs.pl?strongs=01364&page=1>

Also, nice comment on Noah's flood at http://www.blueletterbible.org/tmp_dir/words/3/1082899939-6098.html