The Unsolved Mys­tery of Noah’s Ark. By Mary Irwin. Bloom­ing­ton, IN: West­Bow Press, 2012, xv+117pp., $11.95 paper.

Reviewed by Gor­don Franz and Bill Crouse

Mary Irwin, the wife of the late moon-walk­ing astro­naut, Jim Irwin, has writ­ten a book about their adven­tures on Mount Ararat and the search for Noah?s Ark. This book was prompt­ed by a decep­tive Nation­al Geo­graph­ic spe­cial on Noah?s Ark in May 2009.

In the Fore­ward, Bob Cor­nuke, anoth­er Ark hunter, laments that he has been search­ing for Noah?s Ark for 25 years and has nev­er seen the old boat, and then asks: but has any­one ever seen the remains of Noah?s Ark? (page xi). We are pleased to report that over the mil­len­nia, lit­er­al­ly thou­sands, upon thou­sands of peo­ple, includ­ing an Assyr­i­an king, have made pil­grim­ages to Noah?s Ark and seen it, brought back wood from it as sou­venirs or as objects of wor­ship. We were sur­prised that Mary Irwin did not cite our defin­i­tive and com­pelling arti­cle on the true loca­tion for the land­ing of Noah?s Ark on Cudi Dagh in south­east­ern Turkey. It was pub­lished in Bible and Spade (Fall 2006; Vol. 10, no. 4, pages 99 – 113).

Ear­ly in the book Irwin writes about her first trip to the famed moun­tain, known by the Turks as Agri Dagh, with her hus­band in the ear­ly 80?s, an account that will bring back many mem­o­ries to the var­i­ous teams of climbers that had high hopes of find­ing Noah?s Ark. She then begins what is the best part of the book where she debunks sev­er­al of the more noto­ri­ous claims about the where­abouts of the Ark. Here she demon­strates evi­dence of pret­ty good detec­tive work as far as she goes. Those mak­ing the remark­able claims which she expos­es are: Fer­di­nand Navar­ra, George Green, George Hagopi­an, and Ron Wyatt. We com­mend her for her efforts to set the record straight.

In the Part two, she sets about to exam­ine the off-probed sto­ry of the late Ed Davis from Albu­querque, NM. This is the sto­ry of a WWII sol­dier sta­tioned in Hamadan, Iran, who claimed he had a close encounter, both with Noah?s Ark and the Gar­den of Eden. We wish that she had applied her skill evi­denced ear­li­er in the book to this sen­sa­tion­al claim.

We agree with Mary Irwin?s assess­ment in the first half of the book (pages 1 – 49) that there are no cred­i­ble sight­ings of Noah?s Ark on Agri Dagh, the tra­di­tion­al Mount Ararat. How­ev­er, her case in the sec­ond half of the book for Mount Suleiman, north­west of Tehran, based on the Ed Davis tes­ti­mo­ny strains creduli­ty. This idea was first espoused by Robert Cor­nuke, and is weak and uncon­vinc­ing. First of all, the bib­li­cal­ly des­ig­nat­ed moun­tains of Ararat do not extend any­where near this moun­tain in East­ern Iran. It has no tra­di­tion what­so­ev­er, and one must have quite the imag­i­na­tion to even con­sid­er that the claimed rock for­ma­tion was once the mighty ship of Noah (here are the co-ordi­nates: 36 degrees, 24?14.18N; 50 degrees, 58?27.43E). Thor­ough refu­ta­tions of Bob Cornuke?s ideas and arti­cles are up on these sites here and here. Mr. Cor­nuke has nev­er respond­ed to these arti­cles and Mary Irwin appar­ent­ly did not inter­act with the mate­r­i­al in our cri­tiques, so repeat­ed the errors point­ed out in the articles.

In the book, Irwin con­tends that Ed Davis passed sev­er­al lie detec­tor tests (page 53) and one was ?gru­el­ing? (page 54). The facts are not exact­ly as stat­ed. Ed Davis, in one lie detec­tor test of which we are aware, done on May 1,1988 for Bob Cor­nuke and High Flight Foun­da­tion (Jim Irwin?s orga­ni­za­tion), by P. G. P. Poly­graph, was asked six soft­ball ques­tions, and on the final ques­tion was answered by Davis in the neg­a­tive, but showed stress on the poly­graph test. Appar­ent­ly, he had talked with oth­ers, or read books, about the ark. The author should have been aware of the results of this poly­graph test because her hus­band was still in charge of the High Flight Foun­da­tion and the let­ter should have been in her ?Ararat? file. If oth­er tests were admin­is­tered, it sure would strength­en her case if these results would have been doc­u­ment­ed in the book.

Two old maps are pre­sent­ed in the book in an attempt to bol­ster the case for the land­ing site of the ark in Iran (pages 95 and 99). How­ev­er, nei­ther map sup­ports the case for Mount Suleiman being the land­ing site of the ark.

The first map is found on page 95. It is labeled Ancient Map of the Mid­dle East, by Jew­ish His­to­ri­an Petras Plan­tius. This map is prim­i­tive, and in some cas­es high­ly inac­cu­rate. A care­ful exam­i­na­tion of the map will show that the moun­tains labeled Ararat mons are the Gordyan Moun­tains in south­east­ern Turkey and not Iran. Just below the Ararat mons are the cities of Nin­eve, Mosul, and Arbela, all cities in north­ern Mesopotamia (mod­ern day Iraq), and not Iran. The range of moun­tains to the right of Ararat mons, run­ning in a north-south direc­tion, is the Zagros Moun­tains, even though they are mis­la­beled Caspy (?) montes (Caspi­an Moun­tains). One can tell they are the Zagros Moun­tains by the loca­tion of Elam and Susa at the south­ern end of the moun­tain range. These loca­tions are to the south­east of the Zagros Moun­tains. On this map, the Ararat Mons is in Turkey, not Iran. This map would be bet­ter used for the case of Cudi Dagh, as the true land­ing site of Noah?s Ark!

The sec­ond map is found on page 99. It is iden­ti­fied in the book as a Ter­res­tri­al Par­adise, cir­ca 1722 show­ing Noah?s Ark below the Caspi­an Sea on the Sum­mit of Mont Ararat. This map is Pierre Daniel Huet?s con­cep­tion from Calmet?s Dic­tio­n­naire his­torique de la Bible (1722). With this map she is try­ing to demon­strate that the land­ing site for Noah?s Ark is below (or near) the Caspi­an Sea, just as Mount Suleiman, near Tehran, is near the Caspi­an Sea. This is very mis­lead­ing. The map is not to scale and is an ide­al­ized map. For­tu­nate­ly, one can locate where this moun­tain is by a care­ful exam­i­na­tion of the map. Just below the moun­tain is a city named Ecbatana. The ancient city of Ecbatana is buried under­neath the mod­ern Iran­ian city of Hamadan.

Ecbatana is men­tioned once in the Bible in Ezra 6:2 (see the mar­gin of any good study Bible) as the cap­i­tal of the province of Media. It is also pos­si­ble that it was one of the ?cities of the Medes to which Israelite cap­tives were exiled to by the Assyr­i­ans after the fall of Samaria (2 Kings 17:6). Inter­est­ing­ly, the map­mak­er places Mount Ararat in the Land of Media and not in Arme­nia. This should have raised red flags because this is con­trary to our Bib­li­cal com­pass. The ancient Bib­li­cal and his­tor­i­cal sources clear­ly show that Mt. Suleiman, north of Tehran, was deep inside the land of Media and far out­side the land of Ararat / Urar­tu where the Ark landed.

The map­mak­er was try­ing to con­vey that the Ark land­ed on a moun­tain near Ecbatana, but not, on Mount Suleiman some 250 km to the north­east of Hamadan. There are Luris­tan tra­di­tions that Noah?s Ark land­ed in the area of Hamadan. Major Rawl­in­son, a British Army offi­cer, vis­it­ed the area in 1836 and men­tions the tra­di­tion of the land­ing on a very lofty range, (co-ordi­nates: 34 degrees, 02?02.39N; 47 degrees, 37?01.85E) called Sar Kasti on page 100 in his arti­cle in the Jour­nal of the Roy­al Geo­graph­i­cal Soci­ety of Lon­don 9 (1839) 26 – 116. It was to this moun­tain that Cor­nuke made his first solo trip and the first of three claims that the Ark came to rest inside Iran. See: Cor­nuke and Hal­brook, The Lost Moun­tains of Noah: The Dis­cov­ery of the Real Mtns of Ararat, (2001) pages 88 – 95.

We were both a lit­tle amused that she advo­cat­ed the Karo­la Kautz?s the­o­ry that the Mount of Sal­va­tion (Mount Nisir) was the land­ing place of the Baby­lon­ian ark! Kautz is advo­cat­ing the Baby­lon­ian account of Mount Nisir which is what Irwin was upset about when she watched the Nation­al Geo­graph­ic pro­gram on Noah?s Ark (pages 1 and 2)!!!!!

In Chap­ter Ten Irwin bor­rows anoth­er argu­ment from Cor­nuke she believes indi­cates that the ark land­ed in East­ern Iran. Gen­e­sis 11:1 – 2 says: And the whole earth was of one lan­guage, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they jour­neyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shi­nar; and they dwelt there (KJV). The argu­ment goes like this: If you trans­late the Hebrew miqqe­dem mdqm as: from the east, as the KJV does, it would clear­ly seem to indi­cate that the Ark must have land­ed some­where to the east of his­toric Shi­nar (Mesopotamia), in mod­ern-day Iran since it is that coun­try that is direct­ly east of Shi­nar. How­ev­er, if you trans­late the miqqe­dem as east­ward, as the NIV does, then you have the migra­tion com­ing from the west toward Shi­nar. Else­where the miqqe­dem is trans­lat­ed in the east (NEB), that is: men moved in the east, then, the direc­tion­al point is much more indefinite.

Giv­en that this migra­tion occurred sev­er­al hun­dred years after the dis­em­bark­ing from the Ark from the pre­vi­ous con­text of chap­ter 10, it seems best not to push this pas­sage too much. If you believe the Ark land­ed in north­ern Iran, or north­east Turkey, it would have cer­tain­ly been more accu­rate for the writer to say they migrat­ed from the north. Nei­ther the Elburz Moun­tains, nor Mount Ararat is direct­ly east of Shi­nar. The Bib­li­cal moun­tains of Ararat (Urar­tu) are direct­ly north of the plain of Shinar.

The appar­ent con­flict between Gen­e­sis 8:4 and 11:2 is more eas­i­ly resolved with a more indef­i­nite inter­pre­ta­tion in our opin­ion. It should also be point­ed out that that there is least a 100 – 300 year peri­od between the land­ing of the Ark after the Flood (Gen. 8), and the Tow­er of Babel event (Gen. 11). The peo­ples could have eas­i­ly moved from where the Ark land­ed to oth­er loca­tions east or west of Shi­nar [Baby­lo­nia] before the Tow­er of Babel sto­ry took place.

Final­ly we would cau­tion the author about advo­cat­ing the Mount Sulie­man dis­cov­ery based on unpub­lished reports of pet­ri­fied wood with marine fos­sils; etc (pages 105 – 109). Mary Irwin stat­ed: Until some­one comes home from an expe­di­tion, with authen­tic pho­tographs or a large chunk of the ark?s remains ver­i­fied by authen­tic sci­en­tists who have looked at the sam­ples through an elec­tron micro­scope and have car­bon dat­ed the piece, I shall con­tin­ue to be sus­pect of any­more ?eye-wit­ness? accounts ? Cornuke?s team, who orig­i­nal­ly made these claims in 2006 has nev­er pro­duced any of the above for peer review. It?s been more than six years! If the answer is neg­a­tive, that should be pub­lished also, so peo­ple do not go around writ­ing books and giv­ing lec­tures that they found Noah?s Ark on Mount Suleiman, north­west of Tehran!


Page 43. 1st line. Wyatt was not a psychi­atric nurse, but rather a nurse anes­thetist.

Page 43. 2nd to the last line. The tun­nel was in the Gar­den Tomb area, not the Gar­den of Gethsemane

Page 69. 3rd line. Jose­phus is the 2nd half of the 1st cen­tu­ry AD, not the begin­ning of the 4th cen­tu­ry AD.

Page 74. The quote attrib­uted to Ashur-nasi­pal was not made by him and not cit­ed as a quote by Olmstead.

Page 78. The Har­mon­ics foot­note does not appear in the bibliography.

Page 113. The date for the Olm­stead arti­cle is 1918, not 1998. The infor­ma­tion cit­ed is on page 231.