How big was Noah's Ark?

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How big was Noah's ark? Let's start by defining a cubit. A cubit is the distance between an adult's elbow and tip of the finger, about 18-inches (45.7 centimeters). Most Hebrew scholars believe the cubit to have been between 17½ to 21½ inches (44.5 to 54.6 centimeters) long. This means that Noah's ark would have been 450 feet (137.2 meters) long, 75 feet (22.9 meters) wide and 45 feet (13.7 meters) high if we assume an 18 inch cubit was used.

The interesting thing about the ark is that it was built on a 1:6 ratio. Naval architecture reveals that this is the most stable ratio for an ocean going vessel. The ark could have easily survived even big ocean waves and would be almost impossible to turn over. The weight of water the ark would displace at a draught of 15 cubits is more than 22,000 tons. The gross tonnage, which is a measure of cubic space, would be 15,100 tons.

The total volume of Noah's Ark was roughly 1.5 million cubic feet (42,985 cubic meters). This would equal the capacity of 569 modern railroad stock cars. The floor space would be over 101,000 square feet (9,383 square meters). This would be more space than twenty-one college basketball courts. The ark was likely the largest vessel of its type built until the late 1800's A.D.

Number of animals carried

How many animals did God want carried in the ark? Many who disbelieve the Bible suggest that it would have been overloaded since Noah would need to gather millions of different animals. The truth, however, is far different than the rhetoric of those who are against God and his word!

The word species and the Biblical word "kind" are often used interchangeably. This is incorrect since they are not synonymous. A Biblical "kind" is something that reproduces others like itself. The species concept is much narrower than this. There can be MANY species with a single Biblical "kind."

For example, the Canidae (canine) family includes about 14 genera of dog-like animals. These include the coyote, dog, wolf, jackal, etc. The ark did not have to contain the hundreds of species of canines that make up this group. In truth, these were all represented by a few "kind." These "kind" would then produce all the animals that make up the Canidae family.

The clean and the unclean

Another question that often arises is the question of how many clean and unclean animals would Noah's Ark have to take on board. What the Bible (Leviticus 11, Deuteronomy 14) considers clean (fit for human consumption) and unclean (not fit to eat) animals is fairly easy to identify based on the characteristics of a particular creature. For example, warm-blooded mammals that have split hooves and chews the cud is clean to eat (e.g. Bison, Cattle, Deer, Goats, Sheep, etc.). Those that do not have these characteristics are not considered clean and good for man (e.g. Pigs, Lions, Tigers, Boars, etc.). In regard to unclean birds, God forbids the eating of those that are scavengers. Birds designated as clean and therefore can be eaten include Chickens, Ducks, Pheasant, Quails, Turkeys and others.

Those who are against God say that Noah had to take SEVEN pair of clean animals and SEVEN pair of the birds (Genesis 7:2-3) with him. How many birds were clean and how many were unclean? The answer to that question is found in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. When properly understood, Noah took on seven (7) individual animals and birds (not seven pairs) of each kind that were clean. Since these were clean animals and clean birds that would be used for food later, it would be important to have extra breeding stock. There were three pair of clean animals and clean birds plus a seventh. The seventh one was to be offered as a sacrifice at the end of the flood (Genesis 8:20). If an animal were unclean, which the vast majorities were, then only one pair was taken aboard.

Contrary to what many believe and what "documentaries" concerning the ark claim, the ship would have EASILY been big enough to carry all the required animals. Only air breathing, land dwelling animals would have to be placed aboard the ark (Genesis 7:22). In the book The Genesis Flood, John Whitcomb and Henry Morris stated the following animals could have survived outside the ark.

• 25,000 species of fish

• 1,700 tunicates found throughout the seas

• 600 echinoderms including star fish and sea urchins

• 107,000 mollusks such as mussels, clams and oysters

• 10,000 coelenterates like corals and jelly fish

• 4,000 species of sponges

• 31,000 microscopic protozoan

Other aquatic mammals such as the dolphins, whales, porpoises, and so on could also easily live in water and survive the flood. Many aquatic reptiles would also not need to be "saved" from the deluge. Still other animals that could survive the flood without needing to board the ark include shrimp, crabs, lobsters, insects, worms and others. Only a small percentage of the animals on earth would have to be saved on a ship.

The number of animals needing to be saved

Many writers on the subject of Noah's ark have different estimates for the amount of animals that it would have to carry. The Genesis Flood estimates that approximately 35,000 animals were placed on the ark. In another book written on the subject, Noah's Ark - A Feasibility Study, John Woodmorappe declares that only about 2,000 animals would have to be on it. Being rather conservative, he continues his study with the assumption that 16,000 animals could easily be on the ship. Even still, a conservative number of 40,000 animals, which allows for extra animals to represent those that have gone extinct, could still be easily transported on the ark.

Space needed for the animals

The average size of all animals, in general, is the size of a sheep. One railroad stock car can carry about 240 sheep. This would mean that all 40,000 animals (if we assume our conservative number needing to be saved) could fit in 167 railroad cars. The ark's total capacity was 569 stock cars. These animals would require LESS THAN 30% of the total space available! In other words, all the animals could fit on one of the ship's three decks with PLENTY of room to spare for Noah's family, food, supplies, and baggage. The following calculations, based on an ark volume of 1,518,750 cubic feet (43,006 cubic meters), shows the amount of space needed to accommodate a variety of animal totals.

 40,000 animals  x  11.125 ft3  =  445,000 ft3  OR  29% of the Ark's total capacity 35,000 animals  x  11.125 ft3  =  389,375 ft3  OR  25% of total capacity 16,000 animals  x  11.125 ft3  =  178,000 ft3  OR  (kind = genus taxon) or 11.7% of total capacity 2,000 animals  x  11.125 ft3  =  22,250 ft3  OR  (kind = family taxon) or 1.4% of the total capacity

The need for a ship

One honest, basic question concerning the ark is WHY was it needed in the first place? What caused God, Who is the very definition of love, to take the extreme measure of DROWNING roughly one BILLION people at the same time? The Bible itself gives us the answer.

"And the LORD saw that the WICKEDNESS OF MAN WAS GREAT ON THE EARTH, and EVERY IMAGINATION OF THE THOUGHTS OF HIS HEART WAS ONLY EVIL CONTINUALLY. And the LORD repented that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. And the LORD said, 'I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, and the crawling thing, and the fowl of the air; for I repent that I have made them.'" (Genesis 6:5-7, Holy Bible in Its Original Order - A Faithful Version (HBFV))

In the roughly 1,500 years from Adam's creation to God proclaiming man had only 120 years to repent (Genesis 6:3), humans steadily grew more corrupt and brutal. The consequences of their selfishness, lust, greed and disobedience - compounded by the fact they lived exceptionally long life spans - led to a preoccupation with evil. God, who saw the cavalcade of suffering and pain man endured - with no end in sight due to his sins - mercifully ended their ongoing self-torture.

Adapted from article by:  Arnold C. Mendez

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