Photo courtesy of Arnold Mendez, Sr.
Scoffers of the Genesis flood story often show Noah's ark as a small vessel, complete with the giraffe's head sticking out the front and the elephant's tail sticking out the back, sinking under the weight of an overloaded cargo of millions of animals. However, is this TRUE? Could someone have built a ship, more than 4,000 years ago, that would have been big enough for ALL the beasts in needed to carry? Could only eight people have taken care of all of them? By clearing up a few misconceptions regarding the flood we will be able to find the answers to these questions.
Was Noah's ark required to carry representatives of ALL the animals on the planet? No. The Bible does NOT state that God required such a task. For starters, all the creatures currently living in or could live in water (e.g. many types of snakes, alligators, etc.) could survive the flood and therefore did not need to be saved from the flood. Insects, worms, and other creeping things could survive as well in the water and therefore did not need to be "saved."
Animals allowed on the ark had to fulfill three requirements before Noah included them on the ship: 1) air breathing, 2) terrestrial (land-based) and 3) could interbreed.
17. And behold, I, even I am bringing a flood of waters upon the earth in order to destroy all flesh - in which is the breath of life - from under heaven. Everything which is upon the earth shall die. 19. And you shall bring into the ark two of every kind, of every living thing of all flesh, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20. Two of every kind shall come to you to keep them alive - of fowls after their kind, and of animals after their kind, of every crawling thing of the earth after its kind. (Genesis 6:17, 19 - 20, HBFV, see also 7:22).
How many animals did the ark save from the flood? There are several different estimates for the number saved from the floodwaters. The book The Genesis Flood estimated that approximately 35,000 animals were on board the ship. In another book, Noah's Ark - A Feasibility Study by John Woodmorappe, it states that only about 2,000 would need saving.
Was Noah's ship then big enough for the task? If we assume the Biblical cubit used for measurement is conservatively 18 inches (45.7 centimeters), the ark would have been 450 feet (137.2 meters) long, 75 feet (22.9 meters) wide and 45 feet (13.7 meters) high. The total volume of the ship, given such dimensions, would be 1,518,000 cubic feet (42,985 cubic meters). Its floor space, divided over three decks, would total over 101,000 square feet (9,383 square meters) - more than 21 standard college basketball courts.
For the sake of argument, let us use a conservative value of 40,000 animals that needed saving. Many biologists state that the average size of most vertebrates is the size of a sheep. The living space each sheep would need is 11.12 cubic feet. When we multiply 40,000 by 11.12 cubic feet, we arrive at 445,000 cubic feet total or only about 30% of capacity taken up! The ark could EASILY carry what God wanted to be saved and STILL have lots of room to spare!
Lastly, could only eight people have fed ALL the animals? Yes. Noah's ark undoubtedly made use of self-cleaning, self-feeding, and self-watering technologies. An eight person crew could have easily kept the occupants fed and STILL be able to rest on the Sabbath day.