Dan McGivern and the Ark

A satellite image of the 17-square mile ice cap atop Mount Ararat. The arrow indicates the position of what could be the ark

Having spent half a million dollars on research, a Hawaii man is sure he’s located Noah’s Ark

On a treeless, snow-capped volcanic mountainside in eastern Turkey, nearly 17,000 feet above sea level, rests what appears to be and according to local lore is a big boat embedded in glacial ice.

Who was the skipper who beached it up there? And how’d he do it?

After nearly a decade of research, Dan McGivern of Hawaii Kai believes the ancient craft is God’s own boat, known to the world as Noah’s Ark.

“I’m 98 percent sure it’s Noah’s Ark,” says McGivern, who since 2003 has spent more than half a million dollars funding research through his Shamrock-The Trinity Corp. commercial satellite photography of Mount Ararat, putting “men on the mountain” and this past summer using ground-penetrating radar, which produces an X-ray-like image.

All of which, he tells MidWeek, as he told a media conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., earlier this month, prove the anciently cited site including by first-century Roman-Jewish historian Josephus is indeed the final resting place of the ark.

And it’s “right where the Bible says it is.”

For those unfamiliar with the story or who may have forgotten some details, the Biblical book of Genesis (chapters 6-9) as well as the Quran (surahs Hud and AlMu’minoonand) say God told Noah and his family to build a boat, take male and female of each species, and put them in the boat to survive the worldwide flood that God would bring to punish the runaway “violence” of humanity. When the floodwaters receded, the boat “came to rest on the mountains of Ararat,” and God declared the rainbow to be the sign that he would never again be so cruel to his creation.

Though actively involved in the search for the greatest archaeological find in history and in the international “ark-chaser” community the closest McGivern has come to Mount Ararat was in 2004, when at the last minute an expedition he was to oversee did not get the OK from the Turkish government to proceed. And with a heart ailment, McGivern, now 72, says his doctor will not permit him to travel to high altitude.

A ground-penetrating radar image of what could be a portion of Noah’s Ark beneath the ice

“I’m really an armchair quarterback,” he says.

The PPK, the Kurdish militant group, poses other threats.

“The Turkish army controls the base of the mountain you have to pay them to get on the mountain,” McGivern says. “But once you’re up there, it’s the PPK.”

In 1991, three archaeologists on Ararat a part of Turkey since 1920 were kidnapped by PPK rebels.

The mountain rises from Turkey’s eastern border with Iran, Armenia and Georgia, and borders with Iraq and Syria are close by as well.

Two men McGivern sent up Ararat a few years ago found themselves surrounded by nine rifle-toting militants, he says, but managed to escape.

* McGivern is a devout Roman Catholic who clearly lives his faith, and might most simply be described as a virtuous man. Mary Adamski, the former longtime religion writer for Honolulu StarBulletin and a fellow Catholic who has known him since their journalism school days at Marquette University in Milwaukee, says McGivern is “beyond devout.”

Yet he says he is still at heart a just-the-facts-ma’am journalist.

“That’s how I approach this,” he says. (After college he came to Hawaii and went to work for Waikiki Beach Press, then became spokesman for the Pineapple Growers Association of Hawaii, did a stint at Theo. H. Davies in the public relations department, later opened his own PR firm.)

“I cannot come across as a religious nut, a fanatic. We have to come at this scientifically. If we don’t, we’ll lose credibility. The only way we’ll be believed is if we keep it totally scientific. That’s why I started with satellite photography.”

Dan McGivern praying to the virgin Mary at Star of the Sea Church Nathalie Walker photo nwalker@ midweek.com

His efforts to prove the ark’s location began with a Russian commercial satellite company.

“I chose them for the secrecy,” he says.

But two flyovers by Russian craft produced photos of clouds the first year, and nothing the next because they got the coordinates wrong. Another satellite company also proved fruitless. He turned to DigitalGlobe’s Quick Bird and shot in color at .06 meters resolution, the best you could then get outside of the military. He believes those 10 photos a roll of film that cost McGivern $5,600 prove there is a boat high on Ararat.

Another portion of the ancient boat was said to lie outside the ice.

“A Kurdish shepherd, who said he used to play on the ark as a child, went up there to show (a researcher), but instead found it covered in rocks, and two overhead rock formations missing,” McGivern says, explaining an atheist Turkish army officer had instructed jet pilots to blow up those peaks, the rock falling and covering the exposed ark and likely crushing whatever was there. “The shepherd paced it off, said, ‘Yes, this is where it was.'”

An American explosives expert named Don “Cowboy” Chapman (no relation) confirmed the rocks had been hit by a concussive force.

Adding credibility to McGivern’s cause is Ahmet Ali Arslan, Ph.D., former Washington bureau chief for two Turkish newspapers and English professor at Selcuk University. Growing up at the foot of Ararat, he heard stories from the elders about a boat not far from the 16,945-foot summit. Arslan, in fact, calls Ararat “the mountain of Noah.”

McGivern originally contacted Arslan in 2003 to share the satellite images. Arslan has photographed the alleged ark from 225 yards away but could get no closer because the rest of the distance was covered with a thin ice crust, under which he heard running water. For a mountaineer, that’s a screaming siren to retreat.

Saying “where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” McGivern quotes other sources.

The final Russian czar, Nicholas II, is said to have sent a photographic expedition to Ararat in 1916 just before the godless Bolsheviks’ revolution the next year. He and his family were executed in 1918, and it’s unlikely the czar’s photos survived.

Similarly, alleged CIA satellite photos of the site are just that, alleged though given the neighborhood, likely to exist.

Then there was an Air Force One flight, carrying President Jimmy Carter from Poland to visit the Shah of Iran 13 months before the Islamic revolution, that detoured to fly over the mountain. Longtime UPI presidential photographer Ron Bennett talked at the time of having seen Noah’s Ark out the window, and President Carter refers to the mountain in his Dec. 31, 1977, White House Diary. It’s believed whatever they saw that day is now covered in rocks.

McGivern also mentions a tale that sounds apocryphal, but he is a believer: A group of five atheists went up Ararat to see for themselves in the late 1800s, and were shocked to find evidence of the ark. They made a solemn vow never to mention what they’d seen, under penalty of death. Three took the secret to their graves, McGivern says, but the other two confessed on their death beds, one in the U.S., one in the U.K.

* Noah built the ark, according to Genesis, with explicit instructions from above. Make it 300 cubits long, God the naval engineer instructed, 50 cubits across, 30 cubits high. Just what a cubit is remains something of a mystery, but is estimated to be the length from the inside of Noah’s elbow to his fingertips, about 18 inches. The ark was constructed of cypress wood and reeds, smeared without and within with pitch, or bitumen, to make it water-tight. The threestory interior contained a variety of rooms.

A diagram of the entire ark, with the Ararat portion in blue, and below as it is situated in glacial ice

It was essentially a long, rectangular box, slightly flexible. The Hebrew word for ark, in fact, is box, not boat.

And if it is Noah’s Ark on Ararat, it’s just a portion of the completed vessel. A diagram at McGivern’s website noahsarkfound.com shows a small portion of ark that is imbedded in the ice, 123 by 24 feet. The entire Ark is estimated to have been between 450 and 500 feet long, about 80 feet wide and 45 to 50 feet high.

“I’ve heard boatmakers say it was a perfect dimension to float,” says McGivern.

So how does a boat get so high on the mountain?

Tectonic uplift, says McGivern, turning again to science.

Look at a map, and Turkey is surrounded by mountainous regions, created when India smashed into Asia, and continues to grind away. “At one time the mountain was only 5,000 feet tall,” he says.

In fact, there is some geologic evidence Ararat may have started as a sea mount, like Loihi now building beneath the waves off the Big Island.

* And from whence would all that flood water come?

McGivern’s theory works backward from when the water receded and, according to Genesis, God gave the world the rainbow as an eternal sign.

“That means there was never a rainbow before,” he says. “Scientifically, two things are required to make a rainbow, direct sunlight and water particles. It’s possible that before the flood, the earth never saw direct sunlight. We believe there was a canopy of mist, clouds, possibly crystallized water covering the earth, creating a hothouse effect. Direct sunlight never got through, but enough for life to thrive.”

Genesis 7:11-12: “In the 600th year of Noah’s life, in the second month, and on the 17th day of that month, that very day, all the springs of the great deep broke through and the sluices of heaven opened. It rained on the earth for 40 days and 40 nights.”

By McGivern’s calculations, the heaviest rainfall ever recorded in modern times, if multiplied by 40 days and 40 nights, would raise the world’s oceans less than one inch. He theorizes that some cataclysmic event meteor? earthquake? opened the gates for underground water to rise.

Recent scientific findings are on McGivern’s side here. NationalGeographic.com in March 2002 reported a study by the Tokyo Institute of Technology that there may be five times as much water in the earth’s lower crust than in all of its oceans, lakes and rivers. Other studies indicate the inner earth could hold 10 times as much water as the surface.

Having been embedded in a glacier for millenia means that traditional carbon dating is not likely to be any help should researchers ever uncover whatever is there, scientists have told McGivern.

Another scientist queried by McGivern says that all signs of animal feces would have washed away, but that animal hair at the site is likely.

McGivern’s blue eyes light up, imagining what that research could lead to.

Bombed rocks now cover part what may have been an exposed portion of the ark. Images courtesy Dan McGivern

* While McGivern, who considers Saint Paul to be “my hero,” is taking a scientific approach, he is frank about ulterior motives.

“The discovery of the ark is so important that many atheists and agnostics will convert to a belief in God,” he said at that press conference at the National Press Club earlier this month. He also quotes Gilbert Grosvenor, late editor of the National Geographic: “If the ark of Noah is ever found, it will be the greatest archaeological discovery in history … it will alter all the currents of scientific thought.”

“I’m driven by that,” McGivern says now. “I believe the discovery of Noah’s Ark will confirm the faith of many, and that many without faith will come to faith.”

In addition to more Christians, that could also mean more Jews and Muslims, whose traditions likewise follow the Genesis account.

“I said faith in God,” McGivern is quick to retort, “not a religion.”

* For those less religiously inclined than McGivern, it is not so difficult to be skeptical that whatever lies inside a glacier 350 feet below Mount Ararat’s summit is in fact the old boat described in the first book of the Jewish Torah, just after the story of Adam and Eve.

And if it is indeed a boat, there is nothing to say that it was built by Noah. The Jewish authors and editors of Genesis borrow and adapt from several ancient in their time traditions and texts, and may have been doing so with the tale of Noah, whom they say lived another 350 years after the flood. In fact, at least 150 cultures around the world have a flood legend. They include the Babylonian today Iraqi tale of the Tigris and Euphrates rising to mythic heights. It is this tale, some scholars believe, that Genesis plagiarizes nearly word for word in some places.

(In old Hawaii, it’s said that missionary Rev. William Ellis, who landed here in 1822, one Sunday preached a sermon on Noah’s Ark. Afterward, Hawaiians came to him and said they also had a flood account in the Kumulipo creation chant, and that all the land had once been covered by the sea, except one small peak.)

From a literary view, the Genesis story of Noah’s Ark can be seen as a sort of allegory, especially with the repetition of the numbers 7 and 17.

Doubters of a literalist view note God giving quite different instructions for how many animals to bring aboard in Chapters 6 and 7 God, this is confusing!

And, logically, if the flood indeed killed all other life on earth as God had promised, what were Noah, his wife, three sons and their wives, and all those critters, supposed to eat while life in all its majesty regenerated? Unicorn kabobs? Oops.

There are estimated to be more than 80,000 animal species and 6,700,000 invertabrate species in the world, and more continue to be discovered every year even as others go extinct. With a male and female of each species, it would have been a bit crowded in ye olde ark.

* Those are manini matters to Dan McGivern. And he has another reason for pushing for more research on Ararat.

“Nothing would bring together Jews, Christians and Muslims who each trace their lineage to Noah’s descendant Abraham like Noah’s Ark,” McGivern says.

He’s written a letter to President Barack Obama, back home for a Christmas vacation this week, asking him to make exploration of the site a scientific priority, and to honor four others in the arker community with Presidential Medals of Freedom.

By doing so, McGivern says, Obama will ensure a legacy that

is worldwide and bridges three great religions. Regardless, McGivern will faithfully do his part.

To see more, including the letter to the president, go to noahsarkfound.net.

MidWeek editor Don Chapman is the author of the forthcoming (from Amazon) “The Greatest Love Triangle Story Ever Told: Abraham, Sarah and Hagar,” a historical novel about Noah’s descendant Abraham, who with his two wives fathered two sons and three world religions. dchapman@midweek.com