"THE RIDDLE OF ARARAT"
By Robin Simmons
Originally Published in Fortean Times #120
There's a well-known account of ten year old Georgie Hagopian, who saw Noah's Ark while climbing Ararat with his uncle in 1904. The date isn't precise but this was around the time my grandfather was in the region and heard convincing stories of the Ark, preserved in ice and snow, still occasionally visible.
My grandfather died in 1980, aged 106. As a boy, I listened to his adventures as a doctor in Eastern Turkey and Russia between 1904 and 1910. He worked in the very shadow of Greater Ararat - the legendary Biblical landing place of Noah's ship.
My grandfather said some of the Kurds and Armenians he treated confided that the great Ark was preserved on Ararat. They said, it's "high on the northern side, a little below the saddle" of the twin-peaked dormant volcano.
He showed me the spot on an old photograph of Ararat. He said the oldest place names of that area preserve antique meanings that translate as 'Noah's Village', 'First Vineyard', 'House of Shem' (Noah's son), 'First Market Town' and 'Place of First Descent' and so on. Most of these names, he thought, are no longer in general use but are very specific in old-style Armenian.
My grandfather's story so impressed me that over the years I noted any material pertaining to this enduring enigma. It seems as if, every couple of years, someone claims a new Noah's Ark discovery in a book, documentary or TV special. Some are laughably amateurish; others are clumsy hoaxes.
Even supermarket tabloids regularly exploit this mystery.
Before long, I had a veritable flood of questionable and unverifiable data. There were Arks everywhere - all over Ararat as well as boat-shaped earthen impressions in nearby lower elevations and many more in the pass between Greater and Lesser Ararat.
The Koran speaks of the Ark landing on Al Cudi; there's a mountain by that name 200 miles south of Ararat. (Some researchers suggest that the Arabic(?) root for Cudi means "the highest" and refers to the upper part of Greater Ararat.) Kuh e Alvand, yet another 'Ararat' is in Iran.
It has a long tradition among locals as the Ark's landing place. More contentious sites exist in other countries and continents. I spoke to several living eyewitnesses - like Georgie - who claimed to have seen the Ark of Noah, or big parts of it, on Ararat.
And there's the tale of a months-long expedition by Czar Nicholas's soldiers, during which the Ark was supposedly entered and photographed. It's location was mapped, allegedly, somewhere in the rugged, canyon-riddled upper regions on the "Armenian side." This expedition was just prior to the Bolshevik Revolution during which, it is said, many of the Czar's soldiers were hunted down and slaughtered and the Ark photos, maps and artifacts disappeared. Relatives of the few soldiers who survived have family records that seem to confirm the authenticity of the expedition.
A recent story hints that some of Czar Nicholas' personal items may have been transferred from their secret vaults in Moscow and Leningrad to the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in California. The SRI is a federally-funded 'institute' that serves the intelligence community. Could the cache of alleged transferred items include documents pertaining to the Czar's Ararat expedition?
Then I met the late Ed Davis, an octogenarian and breeder of prized Nubian goats in the American southwest. His story of seeing the Ark has been circulated widely among Ark hunters and dismissed by many as the pipe dream of an old man with a big imagination and a faulty memory. I spent a day talking with this smart and kindly gentleman. This is a condensed version of what he said:
"Something happened to me in '43 that's haunted me all my life...
"I'm in the 363rd Army Corps of Engineers working out of a base in Hamadan (ancient Ekbatan), Iran. We're building a Way Station into Russia from Turkey. A supply route. My driver's a young man named Badi Abas. One day while we're at a quarry site loading rock, he points to a distant peak that's sometimes visible and says, 'Agri Dagh, my home.' "We can see it clearly on the horizon with it's year-round snow cap. 'Mt. Ararat, that's where the Ark landed? I say. He nods.
"'My grandfather knows where it is and has gone up there,' he says matter-of-factly. I thought, Boy would I like to see that...
"One day in July, his grandfather, Abas-Abas, visits our base and tells Badi the ice on Ararat is melting to where you can see part of the Ark. Badi tells me if I want to see it they will take me there. I had done a favor for their village that put me in good stead with the Abas family. In fact, they now have water, where before they had to walk two miles to get it...
"So I go to my commanding officer and ask for a leave. He says, 'It's dangerous, you'll get killed.' I tell him how much I want to go. He says, 'I can give you R&R in Teheran and you could take the long way. I stock up on extra gasoline, oil and tires.
Click and drag photo to resize.
"A few days later, we get up early and Badi Abas and I drive down along the border as far as Casbeen until we get to a his little village -- this was the settlement I had helped them get water. We spend the night there...
"At dawn the next day, we reach the foothills of Ararat and arrive at another primitive village. Abas tells me the name of the village means "Where Noah Planted The Vine." I see grape vines so big at their trunk you can't reach around them. Very, very old.
"Abas says they have a cave filled with artifacts that came from the ark. They find them strewn in a canyon below the ark, collect them to keep from outsiders who, they think, would profane them. It's all sacred to them. That night, they show me the artifacts. Oil lamps, clay vats, old style tools, things like that. I see a cage-like door, maybe thirty by forty inches, made of woven branches. It's hard as stone, looks petrified. It has a hand-carved lock or latch on it. I could even see the wood grain.
"We sleep. At first light, we put on mountain clothes and they bring up a string of horses. I leave with seven male members of the Abas family and we ride -- seems like an awful long time.
"Finally we come to a hidden cave deep in the canyons of Greater Ararat. They say it's where T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia) hid when he was doing reconnaissance. There's a huge pot of hot food waiting for us. There's fungus there that glows in the dark. And they say Lawrence put it on his face to convince the Kurds he was a god and get them to join him in his war against the Turks.
"We eat and then climb back on our horses and continue riding higher on the narrow trail. They tell me we're going through the 'Back Door.' It's a secret route used by smugglers or bandits. "Along the way, they point out a pair of human legs sticking out of the ice and tell me he shouldn't have been up there. I believe them.
"I don't know how the horses are able to follow the route. In some places you can tell we were riding along a high cliff but most of the time it's hard to see because of the rain and fog. A freezing wind is blowing and it feels like it's going right through me. Soon, Abas tells me to be quiet because we're at a place where Russian sentries, stationed below, might here us.
"We ride in silence for the rest of the day. Sometimes they'd communicate in their own private code by short whistles. Eventually we run out of trail. Someone from the Abas family is waiting for us, takes our horses and we are roped together and climb on foot much higher to another cave. I can't tell where we are. The rain never lets up... "After three days of climbing we come to the last cave.
Inside, there's strange writing, it looked beautiful and old, on the rock walls and a kind of natural rock bed or outcropping near the back of the cavern. Another pot of food is waiting for us. Everything's prepared for my visit by the Abas family. It rains hard all night. "The next morning we get up and wait. The rain lets up and we walk along a narrow trail behind a dangerous outcropping called 'Doomsday Rock'. I guess it's called that because it's a place you could easily die. And many have. Some not of their own doing. We doubled back around behind the imposing rock formation and come to a ledge. We are enveloped by fog.
"Suddenly the fog lifts and the sun breaks through a hole in the clouds. It's a very mystical sight as the light shimmers on the wet canyon. My Moslem friends pray to Allah. They speak quietly and are very subdued... "After they finish praying, Badi Abas points down into a kind of horseshoe crevasse and says, 'That's Noah's Ark.' But I can't see anything. Everything's the same color and texture.
Then I see it -- a huge, rectangular, man-made structure partly covered by a talas of ice and rock, lying on its side. At least a hundred feet are clearly visible. I can even see inside it, into the end where it's been broken off, timbers are sticking out, kind of twisted and gnarled, water's cascading out from under it.
"Abas points down the canyon and I can make out another portion of it. I can see how the two pieces were once joined -- the torn timbers kind of match. "They told me the Ark is broken into three or four big pieces. Inside the broken end of the biggest piece, I can see at least three floors and Abas says there's a living space near the top with forty-eight rooms. He says there are cages inside as small as my hand, others big enough to hold a family of elephants.
"I can see what looks like remains of partitions and walkways inside the bigger piece. I really want to touch it -- it's hard to explain the feeling. Abas says we can go down on ropes in the morning. It begins to rain and we go back to the cave... "Next morning when we get up, it's snowing. It had snowed all night and it's at least belt deep on me. I can't see anything down in the canyon. The Ark is no longer visible.
Abas says, 'We have to leave, it's too dangerous.' "It takes five days to get off the mountain and back to my base. I smell so bad when I get back, they burn my clothes. And no one seems interested in what I saw, so I quit talking about it. But I dream about it every night for twenty years. "There's something up there..."
|..Is this the object that Ed Davis saw?|
Although Ed Davis'story truck me as unusually detailed and unpretentious, it was almost too good to be true. When it was privately printed and distributed by one of his friends, Davis says he received bizarre phone threats warning that he had betrayed an ancient family secret and as a result "the black hand of Allah was upon him".
Intuitively, I believe Davis but have many questions about his details. For instance, how is it possible to see Mount Ararat from Hamadan, over 400 miles away? Davis supposes peculiar atmospheric conditions that create mirages. Again, Kuh e Alvand, the Iranian 'Ararat' is close by Hamadan; did Ed go there?
Using archival photos and old maps, I see a likely route for Davis from Hamadan to the (new) village of Ahora -- some say the old name translates as 'Where Noah Planted The Vine' -- into the Ahora Gorge and a place beneath the pro massive ice finger that curls off the Abich II glacier. There's a 500 foot waterfall just below this place that cascades into the miles long Black Glacier.
George Stephen is a military-trained, 30 year veteran of remote-sensing, hi-resolution, infra-red and other satellite type photo interpretation - a specialist who says he had access to "every square foot" of planet earth. When asked him to look at upper Ararat for any man-made anomalies, he agreed. When we met some time later, Stephen said:
"I looked at the mountain from the 10,000 foot altitude to the top, I'm a hundred percent sure there's two man-made objects up there on the north side of the mountain above the 13,000 foot elevation. What amazes me is a structure at this altitude. The terrain is just treacherous! And the amount of ice on it...
"It's definitely not a military object or device because it couldn't be used since it's under ice almost all the time.
"The process I use is a Photo Analysis Material Spectra (PAMS). We pull up a photo from a satellite, I can't tell you which one, but it's available. The photograph is put into one of our own processes which is a laser process that takes a spectra reading. We work with 64 different shades of every color. Each one of those shades means something that is going on with that anomaly or target.
Then we use 'perforation' in which we take 'plugs' out of that area. In other words, instead of looking for the needle in the haystack, we remove the haystack. We perforate the area and pull those plugs until we come up with an 'image' of whatever is in the target area."
"On that mountain (Ararat) is the rectangular shape of two man-made organic objects. One above the other. Looks like maybe 1,200 foot difference. Both objects look like they were joined at one time because there's a spectral trail going down from one to the other. They're sitting in a fault on a ledge.
The upper one is hanging. They are both in a glacier. Last time I looked there was about 70 foot of ice over the upper object. The lower one I can't tell because it's at too steep of an angle.
"I can't tell you what it's made of, but it's not metal and it's not rock. It would have to be organic, perhaps wood. It's ancient but I'm not saying it's the Ark because I haven't 'seen' it. All I can say is that I'm a hundred percent sure it's a man-made object. But for somebody to take something up there, to haul it up there, to build a thing of this size would be an amazing feet.
"The most peculiar thing about this anomaly is that there are no trails to it that indicate it was constructed on this site. I don't know if this is the original location of this object. Maybe it's been raised up from a lower elevation. Or maybe it was higher and slid down throughout the centuries. It's almost like it crashed or landed there...
"Perhaps this glacier melts back and this object being hollow, up there on this ledge like it is, with thousands of tons of ice in it and around it, breaks off and takes part of it on down the canyon. "Personally, I don't believe in Noah's Ark. And frankly, I've no idea what it is."
When Stephen marked the locations of the anomalies he found on a topographical map of Ararat, I immediately saw they were in the same area that my grandfather indicated to me many years before. However, this does not mesh with Davis' story; he never mentioned crossing ice fields or being near the summit.
I was determined to visit the area in a recent August when the thaw should be at its maximum. George Adams, my film-making partner, and I made arrangements to get funding to document this anomaly, the security clearance and research and climbing permits for Greater Ararat. The funding fell through, but I decided to go to Ararat anyway. As preparation, we hired Ahmet Arslan - an Azerbaijani-Turk who grew up in the Ararat foothills - to hike to the target zone and take some pictures for us.
Ahmet was given Stephen's anomaly coordinates and set off from Dogubayazit, a frontier outpost close to Ararat, while I waited in the foothills by my short-wave radio. Eventually, I got an excited coded call that he had reached an area overlooking the target, that something was visible and he was going to photograph it from a safe distance.
The next day he arrived back at the base camp shaken and apparently frightened. His behavior was odd, punctuated with unexpected outbursts. He refused to take me back up the mountain as originally agreed. He would hardly talk but, gradually, I pieced together his account:
"I grow up with mountain behind my village." He said. "I climb to peak over 50 times. As boy, I hear all the Ark stories but I never see anything before this time when ice is melt back more than I ever know... I see a dark area in ice... Like a coupe (barn) but still most inside the glacier.
You can see the object - backside stuck in the ice - front exposed. Looks like a roof with snow on it. Shaped rectangular. I see timbers and brown gray color. Not rock or natural. Very dangerous there. Ice crust -- but under it is empty! Deep crevasses. Can hear water rushing beneath. Gorge breaks off down below. Steep. I couldn't push in closer...
"Ahmet claims he got about a quarter mile from the object, from where he took a few photographs. Later, when George Stephen saw the pictures, he said it was indeed the uppermost of the two objects he 'saw' using his specialised satellite software.
Dr James Ebert, a highly-regarded forensic archaeologist, examined Ahmet's photos under a high resolution process and said: "This does not appear to be a natural part of the landscape. Looks strikingly man-made to me. With a peaked roof and rectangular sides or walls. The only way to be sure is get on it." Strangely, Ed Davis did not recognize the high altitude photos as resembling what he saw.
Months later, I am flying over Ararat in a sturdy Russian built M-18 chopper with my film-making partner George Adams. The Turkish military refused to let us land on the mountain so we photograph and videotape Ararat and the Ahora Gorge from the air. Despite the estimated 23 feet of additional ice over the object area, we quickly identifed the spot. It looks like a frozen wave-like formation of ice hanging over something embedded in the glacier.
As we circle the mountain, I look for evidence of the lower, broken part of object that Stephen says is perhaps 1,100 feet below in a steeper part of the glacier. I take some long-range shots of what appears to be a similar-shaped broken-ended, roofed structure barely visible in an ice wall. Is this the second, broken object Stephen described?
As we make another pass over the awesome Ahora Gorge, I look down to the spot, about 2,500 feet distant, where I theoretically located Ed Davis' object. In a debris ridden canyon of ice and rock, there appears yet another similar-shaped anomaly jutting out from a steep scree. Water courses under it. The end appears broken and there's a peaked roof-shape with parallel sides. It looks battered.
Is it a rock formation? Or something man-made? This object closely matches Ed Davis' description. If it is that Ark-object, then there's another big part buried in the rubble above it.
All three anomalous shapes are extremely similar and could in fact be broken parts, all fallen from the same singular source still lodged in the fault line high in the icecap. Unfortunately, there's no accurate scale cues for any of these objects. The Biblical original is described as at least 450 feet long - maybe twice that length if the cubit is a "royal cubit." So is it possible that the Ark could have broken into at least four large pieces? The answer is just out of reach - but maybe not for long.
Now the story gets even stranger. According to a source, who would talk only if guaranteed anonymity, in 1974 a US 'special operations' team was engaged on a secret mission to photograph a Soviet radar device that was tracking SR-71 flights out of Turkey into Soviet air space. Returning over Ararat to avoid detection, the team was caught in an ice storm and sought shelter in a crevasse.
They literally fell into a huge structure they at first thought to be an ancient Byzantine shrine. As one, the team realized the elevation was far too high for such a structure and they all concluded it must be the Ark of Noah.
Code named 'Black Spear', their report apparently went to the White House for the President to read. A friend of a Presidential advisor told me that he (the advisor) saw the still classified report in the Oval Office and it included a specific reference to what the special ops team believed to be a preserved, ice-encased portion of the true Ark of Noah.
From an illusive source, another story has recently come to light, full of details which seem to partially check out. Between December 1959 and April 1960, a pilot made between 40-50 flights from a secret base in Turkey into the Soviet Union as a 'decoy' for Francis Gary Powers' U-2 flights under an ID of 'DET TWO TEN TEN'.
Many of these flights included documention of the construction of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. They would return to Turkey over the Russian/Iranian border zone and head up towards Ararat. Out of his left window, the pilot said he saw, many times, an oblong, rectangular Ark-like object protruding from the ice at an altitude maybe between 14,500' and 15,000'.
The pilot says the photos are stored, today, seven floors below the Pentagon. A request has been made to obtain these high-resolution close-up images of the anomaly in Ararat's ice cap.
In 1968, a teenager named Dave Duckworth was a volunteer worker in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Duckworth told me that for several days that Autumn large shipping crates marked 'Smithsonian Institution/National Geographic Ararat Expedition' were deposited on pallets at the loading dock.
A visiting specialist named Robert Geist was in charge of the material, which all went to the vertebrate paleontology wing (where Duckworth worked under the supervision of an Albert Myrick). Duckworth says he saw infra-red aerial photos, taken from an anchored balloon, that showed a boat-shaped object under the ice. He was told they had found Noah's Ark.
He saw old style tools, pottery and an alabaster sarcophagus that contained a body. He heard Geist say there were more bodies. Dave was told to keep quiet. Several years pass, sometimes Dave spoke openly about his strange Smithsonian experiences.
In 1974 - the same year as operation 'Black Spear' - and long after Duckworth's story became known, two 'FBI agents' visited Duckworth (at a different place of employment) and warned again: "You were in a place you shouldn't have been and saw something that doesn't concern you."
In talking to people about this persistent enigma, there's one thing I hear over and over; the notion that the Ark has been preserved for a purpose as a witness in our time. But a witness to what?
At the University of Erzurum, [an Islamic scholar told me]: "The Ark is a bomb in the world." There is a widespread belief in the region that the revelation of Noah's ship will be a sign that Mohammed is returning to purge the earth of heretics in a holy war. All true believers will then go to heaven in a restored golden Ark. One of Ed Davis' guides told him: "When the Master returns, a light will shine on the Ark and restore it."
An Old Testament professor at a respected liberal arts university once reminded me of the Gospel's warning - "As it was in the days of Noah so shall it be at the coming of the Son of Man." The text's true meaning, he said, a reminder that when the 'sons of God' (the fallen angels in Genesis 6) again breed with the 'daughters of man', the great deception of the Antichrist that precedes the Second Coming is imminent. This puts so-called alien abductions in a whole new light.
The same scholar asked me: "What would happen if the Ark were conclusively proved to be preserved in the ice of Ararat and then it became apparent that it had been looted by the West? And further, that it was a long-known secret kept by the powers that be? That this sacred mountain and its treasure had been profaned by the 'great Satan' (America)?"
He went on: "And what if the Ark were revealed to be on Ararat and not on Al Cudi, as some translations of the Koran say? Would that further aggravate the situation by making it appear that Mohammed was a liar?"
The idea of the great Ark of Noah actually existing - to say nothing of being preserved into our day - goes against consensus academic and scientific opinion. However, as every fortean knows, geologic anomalies abound that challenge standard models of slow, uniform changes over millenia.
Colonel James Irwin, the late moon-walking Apollo astronaut, apparently had access to information not generally available. He made several high altitude explorations of Ararat. He told me he thought the preponderance of evidence indicated there was something ancient and meaningful hidden on the heights of Ararat. Something that would affect the way all mankind relates to each other -- and the Creator.
Irwin said, "It's not about walking on the moon, it's Who walked on earth."
Perhaps the real riddle is why the solution to this mystery remains just out of reach. Are there forces that actively protect it? As of this writing, Greater Ararat is off limits to trekking and exploration. The Ahora Gorge is a forbidden zone to climbing and to photography of any kind. The trails have been mined and military encampments ensure enforcement.
If this ancient riddle can't be satisfactorily explained, then a new paradigm is needed to explain the observed out-of-place artifacts. Perhaps they are evidence of an ante-deluvian world that included human beings like us who were suddenly drowned in a global cataclysm. On the other hand, perhaps it's too late and too dangerous for the true identity of the Ararat anomaly to be revealed?
The author reports that if anyone is interested, he will burn a copy of the out of print "RIDDLE OF ARARAT" on DVD (actually DVD-R) and mail it with insert art for $15 (his cost). The film is about 35 minutes long. Requests can be sent directly to him at FindTheArk@aol.com.