The physics and biology of Noah’s Ark

Most people are familiar with the story from Genesis of Noah’s ark. Few have ever tried to deal with the biological necessity of caring for thousands of animals, or preserving plants which also would have been preserved. Today we will look at that, and also the physics of the boat. We will start with Genesis chapter 6, KJV. (1)

And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord”.

So the stage was set for the destruction of the Earth.

14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.

15 And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.”

Sources vary on what a cubit is, or what gopher wood is. Generally it is believed to be about 18 inches. This would have the length at 450 feet, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. The stability of this vessel might be questionable, regardless of the dimensions, which would be proportionately the same. regardless of what you say a cubit is. Laden down with all those animals, food and water, at best the ark would have a very deep draft. Likely waves would have spilled over frequently. There was one window at the top, and a door on the side for loading. It must have been terrifying to feel this boat bounce in the waves! These dimensions are huge, especially the length.

One thing not dealt with in the Bible is the effects of the height of water on the Earth, or where the water came from. Mt. Everest is approximately 5 1/2 miles high. At that altitude, the brave souls who have attempted to climb this mountain must use oxygen. It’s hard to say how much the atmosphere in this scenario would have thinned with the boat this high above sea level. This would certainly wreak havoc with weather systems. There is another problem, however.

Such a deep amount of water would have the effect of slowing the Earth’s rotation, due to the change in angular momentum. It’s the same principle as when a skater sticks their arms out in a spin. (2) Therefore, the water may have been on the Earth for much longer than is recorded. This in turn would have had an effect on the moon, which orbits the Earth in 28 days and is tidally locked, the same side always facing the Earth.

Next we will look at the biology of some of the animals and other things on board the ark. Since we can’t look at all species, we will pick out just a few.

Lighting would have been essential, both for the human occupants and the animals, which were essentially zoo animals. Humans learned early on how to use tallow to make candles. According to the Smithsonian, the invention of candles dates back to approximately 1000 BC. (3) Remember that according to Genesis, there were thousands of animals and eight humans on board. Providing lighting with candles would not have been feasible. Also, the window at the top was an opaque slot that had to be opened in order to let in light. So exactly how the ark was lighted for the many thousands of animals remains a mystery.

Now we will pick out an animal, the common giraffe, which does not need an introduction. The beautiful long-necked animals are renown for feeding on low tree leaves and leaves on the ground. Giraffes eat up to 75 pounds of food per day, regurgitating it as ruminants do to chew it again. Since the animals were on the ark for an estimated year, we can calculate their food supply: 75 x 365 x 2. That comes to 54, 740 pounds of food for two giraffes, or more than 27 tons. (4) The problem is, that there are 4 different species of giraffe, so we need to multiply all our figures by 4. (5) Giraffes drink up to 10 gallons of water a day, so with 4 species and 8 adults, we get 80 gallons per day and 10. Multiplying our other figure by 4, we come to we come to an astonishing 109.5 tons of food for these animals.

Let’s look at bats, but we won’t go into detail. There are simply too many species. Vampire bats have three species that are totally dependent on blood, and of course feed on other mammals at night, which can give anyone the willies. Of course these animals would need to be able to fly around inside the ark. One thing we can say is that with their echolocation, the animals would not need the lighting the way other animals would. (6) Then you have fruit bats, and bats that eat flying insects, using their remarkable skills to catch them. A thousand flying insects in an hour is about the norm, and 4000 for a nursing mother. (7) Where all those insects would come from is not talked about in the Bible.

Now let’s talk about Bison. The magnificent animals, brought back from the edge of extinction, once covered entire states with their herds! These huge animals, averaging 1800-2400 pounds, eat approximately 1.6 % of their body weight per day. We will use 2100 pounds as a median point. This is 33.6 pounds per day. For a pair that’s over 12 tons of food for the entire journey. (8)

Panda bears, with their adorable appearance and easy manner, are a perennial zoo favorite. Humans love friendly, fuzzy warm animals! Pandas eat between 25 and 40 pounds of bamboo per day, and need to have it fresh and growing. On the low end of this is over 9 tons of bamboo for a pair of these animals. (9). Where the fresh bamboo would come from is hard to tell.

We have gone from the plains of America to China, South America and North America. Now let’s look at one more animal before we look at some structural details. Just for an example, we have the funnel web spider. There are many different species of funnel web spiders, not all of them toxic. (10) These spiders are notorious in Australia for being dangerous. The reason that I am bringing up spiders and other creepy things is that they would have been a part of the journey as well, and feed on a variety of different creatures. The largest spider in the world is the Goliath Bird eater, measuring nearly a foot across. All of these spiders, from the deadly to the harmless, would have been present, and would have had to eat.

Most of the animals on the ark would have required feeding. There is no getting around this fact. The care of creatures, and for that matter plants, would have been paramount. Of course, if Noah had seeds for every plant that would have been better, but as we have seen, huge quantities of vegetable matter would have been needed to feed the herbivores, and predators need to be fed as well. That’s most inconvenient when we are told that there were two of each animal, except for sacrificial animals . Facts are indisputable. every animal in a zoo requires care and feeding, access to fresh water and food. Denying this would be denying reality. What the mechanism would be for supplying all of this is not dealt with. Waste removal would have been essential as well. What an incredible chore it would have been for 8 people to clean up after thousands of animals, and bring them water and food! This is all in the dark with very little light.

Then finally the door was opened, to let all those animals out of their cages. There would have been nothing there. That’s according to the Bible, which says that total destruction was the goal. How all those animals, freshly released on the side of Mt. Ararat would have found food, is perhaps an even bigger mystery than the one we just discussed. It is up to the reader, not me, to decide what they think really did happen.


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