April 10, 2006

Dutch Christian floats idea of replica Noah’s Ark

By Reed Stevenson

SCHAGEN, Netherlands (Reuters) - It seems appropriate that
Johan Huibers is building a modern version of Noah's Ark in the
Netherlands, where two-thirds of the land would be under water
were it not for dikes and levees holding back the North Sea.

The 47-year-old Christian is pouring his time and energy
into recreating a ready-to-sail replica of the ship mentioned
in the Bible.

However, he is counting not on 40 days and 40 nights of
rain, but on floods of children -- and their parents with cash
in their wallets -- to visit the ship and learn about the
Christian faith.

Huibers, who said the idea of building the huge vessel came
to him in a dream 30 years ago, lamented that children were no
longer being taught the story of Noah's Ark.

In the Bible's book of Genesis, God, seeing that the
"wickedness of man was great in the earth" commanded Noah to
build an ark and stock it with pairs of animals so that Noah
and his family would survive a flood sent by God to destroy

"We will tell that story, we will fill a place that is
empty," said Huibers, who is painstakingly building the modern
version of the Ark out of cedar and pine.

"Make yourself an ark of gopher wood (possibly cypress);
make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch,"
God instructs Noah in the Bible. "This is how you are to make
it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits,
and its height 30 cubits."

Given that a cubit is the distance between the elbow and
the fingers, modern scholars say the biblical ark would have
had half the capacity of the Titanic, which sank off Canada on
its maiden voyage in 1912 with the loss of more than 1,500

Huiber's ark is more modest, about a fifth of the size of
the biblical vessel and actually a 50-meter (164-feet) long,
13-meter (43-feet) high structure built on top of a steel
barge, although it has the familiar shape and side door of the
ark as depicted in many biblical illustrations.

Huibers began building the ship, docked at a small harbor
50 km (31 miles) north of Amsterdam, three months ago with help
from friends and his 17-year-old son and expects to spend 1
million euros ($1.2 million) on it, mainly from bank loans.


Huiber's plan is to launch the ark in September and sail it
through the canals and waterways that crisscross the
Netherlands so that visitors can see it in their own towns.

After entering the ark's cavernous interior through the
side door, children can see animals housed in stables and a
petting zoo, play in a separate petting zoo and witness a
re-enactment of the flood in a diorama to be created in the
ship's hull.

For the adults there will be a restaurant and, naturally, a
gift shop.

The story of Noah's Ark continues to capture the
imagination of the faithful and adventurous, with expeditions
every few years to try to find traces of the ark on Mount
Ararat, where the Bible said it came to rest, or evidence of a
great flood.

In 2001, U.S. geologist Robert Ballard, who discovered the
wreck of the Titanic at the bottom of the Atlantic in 1985,
headed a joint U.S.-Bulgarian expedition which combed the Black
Sea for traces of a society living there before the Great

There was talk at the time that Bulgarian entrepreneurs
wanted to build a replica of Noah's Ark to lure tourists.

Asked if he feared another biblical flood, Huibers said he
expected more like the one that ravaged New Orleans after
Hurricane Katrina but noted that in the Bible, God promised
Noah never to send another flood to destroy mankind.

"I want to tell people that there is a God and that he is
there," Huibers said.