CIA spy photos sharpen focus on Ararat Anomaly

By Bill Gertz
The Washington Times, November 18, 1997

In the secret world of intelligence, it goes by the bland name
of the "Ararat Anomaly." But former intelligence officials say
soon-to-be-released U.S. spy photographs of the odd
formation high on Turkey's Mount Ararat could reveal
something far more explosive: the remnants of Noah's Ark,
the ancient vessel from the Bible that safely preserved a pair
of every creature on Earth in the midst of a global flood.

"The pictures are real clear. You see the whole summit and
lots of rock formations," said Dino A. Brugioni, a retired CIA
photographic specialist who was directed to study the
high-resolution photographs of the unusual Mount Ararat site
two decades ago.

A series of images snapped by a U-2 spy plane at the end of a
3,000-mile reconnaissance flight from what was then the
Soviet Union to Turkey caught the attention of a photo
interpreter in his section.

"We measured things, but none of them fell within the
dimensions given in the Bible," he said. "If you didn't have the
biblical dimensions in cubits, you could pick up those pictures
and say they look like a ship. But when you measure it, it
doesn't come out right. ... At no time did we say we saw an

For more than two decades, highflying U.S. reconnaissance
aircraft and satellites routinely photographed the "Ararat
Anomaly" site. But over the next few months, the CIA will
begin releasing more detailed high-resolution spy pictures of
the distinctive formation near the summit.

High-level U.S. government interest in the search for Noah's
Ark led to a study by the CIA's National Photographic
Interpretation Center (NPIC) of the Ararat Anomaly back in
the 1970s, and the Defense Intelligence Agency conducted a
second, more recent analysis.

The Bible in Genesis tells of God's command to Noah to build
an ark 300 cubits in length, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high.
(A cubit is an ancient measurement of about 20 inches,
making the ark approximately 500 feet long, 83.3 feet wide,
and 50 feet high.)

God then made it rain for 40 days "and the waters increased
and bore up the ark and it rose high above the earth ... so
mightily upon the earth that all the high mountains under the
heavens were covered," the Bible says.

According to the CIA, the U-2 photographs of the Ararat
Anomaly will be released in the next few months as part of a
batch of hundreds of thousands of spy photographs taken on
U-2 and SR-71 spy plane missions between the 1950s and

CIA spokesman Tom Crispell said the release of the U-2
photographs will contain pictures of the Ararat Anomaly. But
other photos taken by KH-9 and KH-11 high-resolution spy
satellites are not likely to be made public any time soon,
intelligence sources said.

Getting the public to see the photographs of Mount Ararat
has been a four-year quest for Porcher L. Taylor III, a
University of Richmond professor who first heard rumors
about the spy pictures of Noah's Ark as a cadet at West Point
in 1973.

"Although it is remote that the Ark could survive for 4,500
years in a moving glacier, some CIA photo interpreters have
not ruled this out," Mr. Taylor said.

"It doesn't really matter what the anomaly may be," he added.
"The CIA has photographic evidence that can shed light on
the enduring mystery of Mount Ararat, and it has a duty to
the public, archaeology and the scientific community to
release all of its Ararat Anomaly file, be it photos of a bunch
of rocks or a nautical structure of unknown origin."

Jews and Christians shouldn't be the only ones interested, the
professor said. The Koran also mentions the Ark, and several
ancient historians, dating back to 275 B.C., have written of a
vessel and timbers from a ship being spotted near the summit.

Mr. Taylor said his interest in the formation increased when
the late George Carver, a respected top CIA official, told a
gathering in Florida several years ago "that there were clear
indications that there was something up on Mount Ararat
which was rather strange," according to a transcript of his

Since then, Mr. Taylor has mounted a concerted campaign to
win the release of the aircraft and spy satellite photos under
the Freedom of Information Act.

The effort bore fruit when the Defense Intelligence Agency in
1995 released aerial photographs of the curved formation
located about 1 and a half miles below the western summit of
the almost 17,000-foot peak. The photos were taken by an
Air Force plane on June 17, 1949.

The DIA also produced an analysis of the anomaly for Mr.
Porcher using the images and a composite "stereo
enlargement." The report described the unusual site as a
combination of shadows, ice and snow.

"The accumulated ice and snow along this precipice obviously
fall down the side of mountain at frequent intervals, often
leaving long linear facades," the report says. "It appears that
the 'anomaly' is one of these linear facades in the glacial ice
underlying more recently accumulated ice and snow.

"Further, the tone and texture of the 'anomaly' and avalanche
debris immediately below are consistent with that of the
shadowed snow, ice and debris prevalent along the face of the

But other former intelligence officials said later photographs,
including those produced by the KH-11 series of spy satellites,
provide better views.

A former high-ranking U.S. intelligence official who has seen a
satellite photograph of the site produced around 1973 said
analysts at the time were surprised when close-ups revealed
what looked like three large curved wooden beams --
resembling part of the hull of a boat -- protruding from the

"They sort of curved over and formed up what would have
been the bow of something or other poking out of the ice,"
the former official said, speaking on the condition of

Enlargements of the spy photographs also produced what
appeared to be "striations" on the formation that gave the
appearance of what was once wood, he said.

One analyst wanted to believe "very badly" that the structure
in the photographs was Noah's Ark, but other interpreters
prevailed in concluding "it was just rock," he said.

"I was skeptical on the advice of my experts," he added. "But I
have felt from the beginning the thing ought to be looked at
more carefully. It's worth looking into."

The search for the ark on Mount Ararat has been greatly
complicated after the Turkish government closed off the area
to visitors, Mr. Taylor said. The government cited problems
with Kurdish rebels and the site's proximity to borders with
Iran and Armenia.

In 1991, five archaeologists near the mountain were
kidnapped by Kurdish rebels -- the same year the Turks
closed Mount Ararat to outside visitors.

The mountain is permanently snow-capped and is often
covered in clouds. The peak rises 16,945 feet and is located
not far from the Armenian and Iranian borders.

(c) The Washington Times