Wednesday 19 November 1997

Is it Noah's Ark? Spy photos focus on Mount Ararat mystery

Hugo Gurdon
The Daily Telegraph


WASHINGTON -- American satellites and spy planes have
been searching for Noah's Ark.

The CIA intends to release tens of thousands of classified
photographs, some of which focused on a boat-shaped mark
high up the slopes of Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey.

The mountain is one of the places where Noah's Ark is said
to have settled after the biblical flood.

The mark, referred to by the CIA as the Ararat Anomaly, is
said to be an elliptical shape under the summit's ice-cap,
which was spotted by high-resolution cameras aboard a U-2
plane on a spying run over the Soviet Union early in the Cold
War.

According to a report yesterday, there was sufficient interest
in the government that the CIA's National Photographic
Interpretation Centre began a study of the anomaly and
commissioned more pictures.

The CIA said yesterday that it would send thousands of
declassified pre-1976 pictures taken by U-2 aircraft to the
national archives. But photographs taken by satellites, which
are much more powerful, will remain secret.

"I believe the photographs being released will include pictures
over Turkey," a CIA spokesman said. "But it will be for
others to interpret whether the mountain and anomaly are
there. We are not commenting on the content of the
photos."

Professor Porcher Taylor of the University of Virginia has
filed a Freedom of Information demand that the higher
resolution pictures be de-classified. Having seen some of the
pictures, he said yesterday, "it is my understanding that these
photos will show that there are the remains of a ship
damaged by the glacier. This does appear to be a manmade
structure under the ice. It could be a crashed plane, but it
looks like we could be heading for something historic."

The need for delicacy on religious subjects has produced
coyness about the Ararat Anomaly. Dino Brugioni, a retired
CIA photographic specialist quoted in the Washington Times,
said: "The pictures are clear. We measured things, but none
of them fell within the dimensions given by the Bible.

"If you didn't have the biblical dimensions in cubits, you could
pick up those pictures and say they looked like a ship. But
when you measure it up, it doesn't come out right.  At no
time did we say we saw an ark."

The Book of Genesis says God commanded Noah to build an
ark 300 cubits long, 50 wide and 30 high, roughly 150 metres
by 24 by 15. The 40-day inundation that followed is said to
have covered the mountain tops.

Ararat has long been suggested as the ark's final resting place,
and there have been many expeditions to follow up claims
dating back to 275 BC that boat timbers had been spotted
there.

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