Now look, I need some disclaimers up front. First and foremost, you are hearing twenty-year old memories that were encoded, at the time, by an eight year old. Second,I was at the time, a second-hand source. I did not see the events, I saw the news reporting on the event, I saw my family talking about it, and eventually, spoke to the person in question. With that disclaimer in the way, let’s talk about one of the more goofy parts of my childhood, the persistent presence of Arkaeology. Remember that my childhood involved a particularly weird persistent thread of biblical literalism, the kind of worldview that believes that there was a global flood, and the whole world was six thousand years old, created ex nihilo by God back in the day on a Tuesday (I believe). Part of this worldview was therefore that there was some reason that nobody else agreed to us, and it wasn’t because our worldview was a matter of faith. The ‘Popular’ ‘Science’ ‘Magazine’ Creation: Ex Nihilo was awash with ‘news’ ‘stories’ about how being a creationist was not just defensible, but that every alternative viewpoint was wrong. Sometimes these claims were about ‘blinkered’ scientists, or ‘godless’ views of history – which really were just defenses of circular reason. Still, if you read all these magazines, and I did, you’d find there was some really odd short term memory stuff going on.
Stories were repeated. Regularly. Every few months I’d see a story that looked familiar, I’d go find an older magazine and surely, there it was, with no reference to one another. That always struck me as weird, but I assumed, as I was in that media bubble, that that was how things got done.
One of these repeated stories that stood out to me, however, was Noah’s Ark found.
The eternally recurrent myth that Noah’s Ark was both real and had been found is something I’ve heard a host of Creationists espouse. I’ve heard Ken Ham say it – in person. The notion that the Ark is both real and had just been discovered as a point of legitimising data was persistent. You meet enough of these people you realise that while their behaviour looks like hucksters, a lot of the time, you’re dealing with people who are sincere but have deliberately fallen into forgetting the source of their information. They forget that Noah’s Ark was discovered a few years ago. That, that was pish, that was just conspiracy theory nonsense. This, on the other hand, this is the real deal.
One of the people I knew who was invested enough into this idea that he joined an expedition to go find it, in Turkey, on Mt Ararat.
I was around eight or nine when I met Dr Allen S Roberts, but he met me before, when I was a wee little thing. He was a respected academic man with a white beard shaped like a spade and a serious manner who spoke at length in a childish sing-song manner to me about the history and the flood and the Bible, which was pretty typical because so did Ken Ham when I met him and so did pretty much every Creation Science promoter. They also spoke this way to adults – the childish, simplistic manner of communication didn’t change when he spoke to my dad or when he spoke to me. I was eight or nine when we met, but I knew about him before that – because I’d seen people talking about him on the news.
I was such a boring little shit of a kid I knew the Morning News anchors well, and I remember them talking in hushed tones about an ‘Australian Archaeologist’ who had been on a mission to uncover what he was sure was Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat. This time, for sure, I remember thinking, in the vein of Rocky and Bullwinkle. But in a colossal feat of bad timing, Dr Allen Roberts along with his crew of people I never learned the names of were captured by Kurdish rebels in Turkey, and kept for three weeks. This ‘hostage crisis’ was mentioned and prayed about on our pulpit – and that Dr Allen Roberts was freed unharmed was a sign of our great faith.
Except he wasn’t just freed unharmed, apparently, to occupy the time, the Kurdish rebels had set up a camp of some variety, and ran the hostages through exercises and limited their food intake because they were up on the arse-end of a mountain. Thanks to this three week forced exercise and diet shift, according to my dad, Roberts was fitter than he’d ever been in his life, a claim he repeated when we met.
I remember hearing this story, again, at a family dinner, at Dr Roberts’, with his family, his kids about my age, my parents talking with him lightheartedly, because they were old friends, as you do and as you are. I remember looking around his house at his museum-like displays of models of humans from before the Flood, towering and monstrous, constructed out of bones that at the time, I believed were real but now understand to be fake. I remember looking at bookshelves full of books on the flood, on Biblical history, on doctrine, and on how bombardier beetles existed, therefore God. I remembered that we had to head home because we’d have church the next day. I remember talking to people at church about it, about my father dredging up the story again, about how good God was to protect, about how important it was to respect this man.
At the time I didn’t think there was anything weird about this at all.
I need to restate that everyone involved to some extent or another believed the Ark could be found.
Everything in this narrative was either snatches on the news of my mother worried, or my dad being slightly dismissive of the threat to Roberts’ life. Dad always was slightly dismissive of the Arkaeology but he was more dismissive of the fear of Kurdish rebels doing anything to him. There was some element of ‘well he shouldn’t have gone,’ because my dad is nothing if not victim-blamey (the privilege of being forgiven by an omniscient god). The fear was that going to find Noah’s Ark was a silly pursuit.
Because of course we knew the Ark was real, and of course the Bible was true. People would lie to themselves about the evidence, my dad said. We could find the ark and it would change nothing, because anyone who didn’t want to believe would just call it fake. My father was of the belief that the finding of the ark was bunkum not because he didn’t believe the Ark had never existed but rather because the Ark was hidden by conspiracy of man or demon.
One final detail, and this is important, Doctor Allen S Roberts, the man that I was told – once – was ‘my godfather,’ is a Christian Schoolteacher as in a teacher of Christian Schools whose degree comes from Freedom University, which can be politely described as a large broom closet out back of a Florida church.
If you’d like to see a very sympathetic take on such things, you can check out the Wyatt ‘Archaeological’ ‘Museum’ Website, which was last updated in April, this year, but looks like… well, like this. If the auto-playing video doesn’t drive you bonkers you can find Creation Magazine’s own dismissal of Roberts’ ‘research’ here. And of course, here’s a wonderful newspaper clipping that helped jog my mind of the incident.
Oh, and be careful looking up this subject. You are diving into a deep well of what I can politely call incoherent thought communication if you go looking for a lot of Arkaeology sources.