Famed Titanic ship wreck hunter looking for Noah’s Ark

I truly hope this is a case of confused reporting or intentional sensationalism to drive page views. ABC has an interview with Robert Ballard and PoPo links it saying he’s looking for … Noah’s Ark:

HuffPo — Robert Ballard, one of the world’s most famous underwater explorers, has set his sights on proving the existence of one of the Bible’s most well known stories. In an interview with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour the archaeologist who discovered the Titanic discussed his findings from his search in Turkey for evidence of a civilization swept away by a monstrous ancient flood.

“We went in there to look for the flood,” Ballard said. “Not just a slow moving, advancing rise of sea level, but a really big flood that then stayed… The land that went under stayed under.”

Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but maybe there’s a chance Ballard is really looking for an event that could have been one of many events that formed the basis for the Gilgamesh legend, the same story later adopted in the Old Testament and renamed Noah’s Ark (And according to info available in comments, it’s looking more like HuffPo’s usual histrionics than comprehensive reporting). Maybe the reporter or editors or marketing gurus decided they’d get more hits pandering to Biblical literalists and skeptics like us by glossing over that subtlety.

Because if he’s really looking for a wooden boat that housed the ancestor of every species on earth in the midst of a global flood that covered the tallest mountains, he’s unusually dangerous or a common conman, or possibly both. That belief would indicate a lack of the most fundamental knowledge of the world’s oceans, earth’s geometry, and basic marine engineering, a lack so profound he should never be allowed behind the wheel of any sea-going vessel beyond the miniature kind that floats in a bathtub.


  1. billgascoyne says

    …maybe there’s a chance Ballard is really looking for an event that could have been one of many events that formed the basis…

    From my reading of the article, this is indeed the case. He’s not looking for a boat.

  2. coragyps says

    Ballard has a book out – >10 years old? – advancing a hunch that the rapid filling of the Black Sea through the Bosphoros about 10,000 years ago gave rise to the Middle Eastern flood stories. So yes, I hope, shoddy reporting.

  3. cope says

    Confused reporting it is.

    Robert Ballard is talking about looking for evidence of what’s called the “Black Sea Deluge”. It’s a working hypothesis that describes an increase in the depth of the Black Sea following a breach in the Bosporus. This deluge would have inundated any inhabited villages or sites, presumably leaving direct evidence beneath some 300 feet of water. He has already led a couple of expeditions to the Black Sea and is, presumably (I didn’t bother to click through to the Huffpo article), preparing yet another expedition.

    Knowing Dr. Ballard to be true scientist, the whole thing is yet another example of the increasing irrelevance of The Huffington Post and its desire to get hits.

  4. says

    Why would you think that a single prehistoric flooding event was the source of the legend? Relatively catastrophic flooding happens anywhere you get rainfall, even in deserts.

  5. says

    Not sure if that was directed at me or just the collective “you,” but I don’t think there was a single event JM. And I agree with you that floods are common enough in their rarity to generate legends of all kinds. I’m not even sure it takes a big flood or floods to do it. Some neolithic herder saves himself and a lamb by hanging onto to a big piece of driftwood and three generations later it’s every child’s campfire fave. But what flood legends gets elevated and embelished vs which one doesn’t … it’s not scientific, but I wonder if legend development worked somewhat like youtube works today. Which video of a popular song ends up at the top of the list and which of the zillions of others don’t? I think it’s pure luck, like dumping a bag of leaves in a fast moving river one leaf ends up ahead of the rest and one ends up last, it has little or nothing to do with which video or which flood was the ‘best’ and more to do with social chaos.

  6. Reginald Selkirk says

    Relatively catastrophic flooding happens anywhere you get rainfall, even in deserts…

    And early human civilizations tended disproportionately to grow on rivers and coasts.

  7. says

    I think the most likely explanation of flood legends is that they are mostly cases of Grandpa saying
    “Flood, you call this a flood? Huh! In my days we had a flood that would make this one look like a drought!”

    And being believed.

  8. sumdum says

    And early human civilizations tended disproportionately to grow on rivers and coasts.

    And not just early civilization, even today the largest percentage of humanity lives on or near the coast or a river to the sea.

  9. says

    My understanding is that there was catastrophic flooding in the Black Sea basin about 10,000 BP that gave rise to the flood legends. In fact, I recall seeing a Nat Geo special (Maybe PBS) where Ballard was looking at the sea floor and found domestic architecture something like 200 ft below current sea level. Don’t have time to look up references right now. In fact, there was a book called, Noah’s Flood that proposed that hypothesis.

  10. Crudely Wrott says

    I’ve been following Bob Ballard’s career for decades. He has always done top notch science and I can’t think of anything that would indicate that he would be in thrall of any biblical legend. That is not to say that he may not have a notion of where to find evidence of some particular local legend. He has consistently provided evidence for all of his discoveries.
    Back in the eighties I was a tangential member of his team. I shipped a specific type of neutrally buoyant marine cable to him at Woods Hole. But that is neither here nor now.
    Really, trust the man. He knows what he’s doing and he knows how to explain it without invoking any kind of magic at all. That is the best evidence of a competent scientist and is also the most engaging and informative.

Leave a Reply