A Flood of Arks? Ark Building Around the World

One of Johan's Arks

If a group of birds are a flock, a group of whales is a pod, and fish gather in schools, what would one call a group of Noah’s arks?  A fleet would be the easy answer, but that somehow doesn’t quite fit.  How about a flood of arks?

However one might wish to describe them, there are at least six or seven arks, either completed, under construction or planned in the Netherlands, Turkey, Hong Kong, Canada  and the United States.

Recently, the arks of Johan Huibers of Dordrect, the Netherlands have been in the news. In 1977 Johan completed his first ark, a half scale version of the Biblical ark which he opened as a tourist attraction complete with fiberglass giraffes.    To date, his “ark” was attracted more than 600,000 visitors, generating $3.5 million in revenue and turning a profit of $1.2 million.   He currently has a 450′ long full sized ark under construction.  He hopes to bring his larger ark to London for the Olympic Games next summer.

A Biblical Blueprint Meets the Fire Code and the Neighbors

Johan’s arks have about as much in common with the notional Noah’s ark, as his fiberglass giraffes have to do with giraffes on the Serengeti.  Johan’s arks are actually more similar in construction to the Cutty Sark in that they have a steel keel and supported by steel structure.   Historically, no wooden vessel over about 350 feet on deck has even been successful. The lack of longitudinal strength in wooden construction makes the ability to construct an ark as described in the Bible, to be highly unlikely at best.   Of course, none of this worries the true believers who take the Bible literally and believe that the world is only around 6,000 years old.

Mr. Huibers is hardly alone in his construction of an ark.   The three billionaire Kwok brothers in Hong Kong have built a shore based ark of 450-foot-long hull with a rooftop luxury hotel and 67 pairs of fiberglass animals.  The Hong Kong ark is virtually its own theme park with theaters, playgrounds, gardens and rides.

Noah’s Ark – Hong Kong

In Grant County, Kentucky in the United States  a Noah’s Ark theme park, which will include a full-sized shore-based ark as well as a Tower of Babel and various other Old Testament attractions,  is also in the planning stages.  The project is expected to cost around $160 million dollars and is intended to be funded in part by generous tax incentives from the State of Kentucky.   The project is controversial as many question whether state financial support would violate the First Amendment separation of church and state.

There is also a 300 foot ark in Florenceville, New Brunswick, Canada. It is not quite built to Biblical proportions but the owners are happy enough with it.  It is used as a dormitory and administrative offices for a local Bible college.   Florenceville is also the home to the Potato World Museum.

For the last 30 years an “ark” has been under construction in Frostburg, Maryland but has ran out of funds.  The “ark”  has a concrete foundation and appears to have a steel frame. There seems to be a real shortage of gopher wood.

And last but not least, the environmental group Greenpeace built an ark on Mount Ararat in Turkey in 2007  “in an appeal to world leaders to take immediate action against climate change.”

Thanks to Carolina Salguero and Irwin Bryan for passing along articles about the flood of arks.



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9 Responses to A Flood of Arks? Ark Building Around the World

  1. Thanks to Dan Goncharoff at PortSide for sending some info to me so I could send it to you!

  2. Oh, and a request! As you are so great at explaining naval architecture, would you be willing to look into design of the anchor for the Dutch Ark? According to the NY Times: “Unlike Noah, Mr. Huibers had to conform to Dutch fire safety standards. To do so, he installed a special anchor that qualifies the 2,970-ton ark as a building, rather than a vessel.”

    How doth an anchor a building make? etc.

  3. Rick says:

    If it is a building, that is a matter for a civil engineer not a naval architect.

    I have a couple of guesses. It appears that under Dutch fire regulations, if a vessel is moored securely enough it falls under a different set of requirements than if it is likely to move. Whether this requires merely a significant permanent mooring like a large mushroom anchor or whether this requires spuds, I have no idea.

    I think that there is also a very good chance that there might be a language issue in the translation of the word “building.”

    I do note that there are two types of houseboats in the Netherlands. The first is a woonboot or woonschip [ship for living] which is a houseboat built on the hull of a ship or boat. The second type is a houseboat built on a hull that was not built to move through the water, but as a static floating object. This sort of hull is called, wait for it, an ark. An ark with living accommodations is called a woonark.

  4. Rick says:

    >>  Historically, no wooden vessel over about 350 feet on deck has even been successful. The lack of longitudinal strength in wooden construction makes the ability to construct an ark as described in the Bible, to be highly unlikely at best.

    I’m not sure how you define a “vessel” but the Ark required no motive capability. It was a barge and the only requirements was that it could float and provide shelter for its occupants.

  5. Rick says:

    Whether or not the alleged ark drifted or sailed, the outcome is still the same. In some respects, if the ark drifted out of control, rather than being able to control the angle of the wind and waves, the loading on the structure could be even worse than if it hove to under sail.

    Wooden structures longer than about 350 feet are inherently too flexible to keep watertight. The schooner Wyoming, built in 1909, one of the longest wooden ships ever built, was still 100 feet shorter on deck than the ark, and was heavily reinforced with steel knees and straps. Nevertheless, “because of the extreme length of the Wyoming and its wood construction, it tended to flex in heavy seas, which would cause the long planks to twist and buckle, thereby allowing sea water to intrude into the hold. The Wyoming had to use pumps to keep its hold relatively free of water.”

    The actions of waves on an open ocean for almost a year would make it impossible for a crew of only eight to man the pumps to keep the ark afloat, especially as they also had to notionally feed and shovel the manure of all the animal species in the world.

    One may take the story of the ark on faith, but it doesn’t “hold water,” so to speak, in terms of all we know of wooden shipbuilding.

  6. re: ” I think that there is also a very good chance that there might be a language issue in the translation of the word “building.” ”

    this might be the same as here.

    if the vessel is “permanently moored” the USCG treats is as a building, and it then falls under NYC Building Dept and Fire Dept rules.

    if vessel continues to move, it remains a vessel legally speaking. The Frying Pan of Manhattan is now “a building” as is Barge Music of Brooklyn.

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