Theory Blown Out Of The Water

The Sun Herald

Sunday November 6, 1994

PETER POCKLEY

THE creationist movement has been left high and dry by a former ally agreeing that a boat-shaped structure in Turkish mountains is not the remains of Noah's Ark.

The leading proponent of the controversial claims now agrees with an Australian geologist that the structure is not a boat.

Stories in The SunHerald two years ago were indirectly responsible for bringing together the odd couple - a former Christian fundamentalist from the US and Australia's most prominent critic of the anti-scientific movement.

David Fasold, a marine salvage expert from San Diego, California, was so convinced that the structure was the fabled Ark that he went broke in spending$US250,000 to finance 12 expeditions to the site over seven years.

His 331-page book published in 1988, The Ark Of Noah, became widely quoted around the world by literal interpreters of the Old Testament stories as providing "scientific" evidence for the truth of the Bible and creationism.

Creationism is the belief that the Earth and all life were created in seven days 6,000 to 10,000 years ago, compared with the geological record of an age for the Earth of 4,500 million years and the dawn of primitive life about 3,500 million years ago.

Claims that the Ark had been found have become central to the creationists'campaign which stretches into an attack on the teaching of biological evolution in schools.

Mr Fasold, 55, visited Sydney for final filming of an ABC-TV Four Corners report on the search for the Ark. The film, screened last month , showed Mr Fasold and Professor Ian Plimer, 48, head of earth sciences at Melbourne University, looking in vain for evidence on a hillside 25km from Mt Ararat in eastern Turkey.

Mr Fasold told me he first made contact with Prof Plimer as a result of his reading The SunHerald's 1992 reports about the debate in Australia between fundamentalists and scientists over the Ark.

It was not until he went to Turkey with Prof Plimer in September that real doubts about the "Ark structure" arose in his mind. He had been convinced by the dimensions of the structure (300 cubits long and 44,100 square feet in area) being close to those quoted in the Bible, but Fasold now thinks this is what made the ancients believe it was the Ark.

He said: "I believe this may be the oldest running hoax in history. I think we have found what the ancients said was the Ark, but this structure is not Noah's Ark."

Prof Plimer's on-thespot study caused him to change his mind as to the geological nature of the structure. Two years ago, we reported that he and other Australian geologists believed the photographs presented at public meetings by "Ark searchers" showed a classical fold of rocks known as a syncline or geosyncline.

Examining the site for three days in September, he showed that the structure was "a large block of cooked-up basalt interleaved with limestone which had slipped down the mountain-side in a mud-slide and twisted around in the process".

"Our drilling showed nothing beneath the surface but rock and mud. All around it is nothing but mud. There is no evidence of wooden beams or metal rivets as claimed by the Ark believers," said Prof Plimer.

Asked how he felt now that his deeply-held beliefs had been shattered, Mr Fasold reached for a cigarette and paused for thought: "Can I live with this?Yes, but I'm still kicking and screaming a bit." He has now returned to San Diego.

© 1994 The Sun Herald

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