Maritime Topics On Stamps : |
Noah's Ark !
The Bible, Genesis 6 through 8, provides these specifications for Noah’s ark:
450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high (in Hebrew 300, 50, and 30
cubits); to be built of cypress wood caulked with pitch inside and out; with
lower, middle and upper decks; a window on top for ventilation, and a loading
door in the side of the hull.
‘Ark’ is derived from the Latin word ‘arca’, meaning ‘box’, giving us another
clue as to its shape.
According to the above specs, the ark had usable space of approximately
100,000 square feet and a ‘cargo’ volume of 1.5 million cubic feet.
Many historians have tried to determine the time that Noah’s flood occurred,
settling on a range of 2,900 to 5,500 years B.C. Consequently, all these
exact sounding figures should be taken ‘with a grain of salt’.
Reports of a catastrophic flood and construction of an ark are not unique to
the Hebrew version of the Bible. The story is based on much older legends
from the area around the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. Assyrians, Babylonians
and Hittites all had their own tales of deluges and giant floods. The most
famous one is recounted in the Sumerian ‘Gilgamesh Epic’. Its flood’s hero is
named Utnapishtim. Like Noah, he receives orders to construct a boat and ‘to
take aboard the seeds of all living creatures’. Yet another version is found
in the Koran.
Similarly, three Native American myths from the Mississippi region,
California and Alaska report a great deluge which covered all the land. And
two Hawaiian legends tell the story of two humans who survived atop Mount
Mouna-Kea while the islands were under water.
In 1968 Israel issued a set of five stamps representing this great
catastrophe symbolically. The first stamp (0.12 value) shows Noah felling
trees and the ark under construction. On the second one (0.15 value) we see
the Noah family and pairs of animals approaching the ark. Then, ‘rain fell on
the earth forty days and forty nights’, represented by the third stamp (0.35
value) with giant waves and flashes of lightning.
After forty days Noah sent out a raven, then a dove on three occasions, seven
days apart, as indicated by the fourth stamp (0.40 value). The first time,
the dove returned to the ark with an empty beak, so, the earth was still
under water. The second time, it returned with a freshly plucked olive leaf,
so Noah knew the waters were receding. The third time, the dove did not
return, and Noah opened his ‘box’. The last stamp shows a rainbow, God’s sign
of his covenant with man after the flood.
Noah was 600 years old when the flood began. With him aboard the ark were his
wife, his three sons and his sons’ wives. Time spent on the ark was somewhat
more than a year, the last five months or so while resting on the mountains
of Ararat, according to the Bible.
Many expeditions have tried to find the ark there, searching, digging and
conducting seismic tests over vast mountainous terrain. There are would-be
explorers who alleged having found it some 32 kilometers distant from Mt.
Ararat, on the slopes of Mt.Judi — exactly the place the Koran describes as
being the 'landing site'. Impressions of a ship-like object approximating the
dimensions of the ark were said to have been discovered there, yet others
dispute this find. According to the ‘Gilgamesh Epic’ hero Utnapishtim placed
his ship atop Mt. Nisir, northeast of Bagdad.
It’s hard to believe, but there exist serious scholarly studies ‘proving’
that all land animals from Noah’s time could have been accommodated on the
ark. This way theologians are countering the argument that lack of space
alone disproves the historic veracity of the Bible’s story. As Noah didn’t
have to transport any sea animals, the number of vertebrates amounted to
approx. 21,100 species, calculated as requiring some 300,00 cubic feet of space.
With some 1.5 million cubic feet available overall, there’d be plenty of
room for all the animals plus provisions. Furthermore, some animal species
are hibernating in summer and others in winter.
What could have caused a catastrophic flood such as this one? The Bible
reports 40 days of steady rain. One study tried to calculate the total amount
of water vapour extant in the
atmosphere. Assuming all of it would fall down to earth in one big deluge,
the result would be a rise of just one inch. Consequently, according to some
scholars, either a comet or an asteroid must have crashed on earth and caused
a gigantic flood wave all around the globe. A newer theory assumes that the
Mediterranean, the Sea of Marmara, and the Black Sea were all landlocked
bodies at one time. Following the Ice Age some 18,000 years ago, melting
glacier ice made the Mediterranean rise tremendously, then flooded first the
Sea of Marmara and later, with a gigantic burst at the Bosphorus, rushed all
over the Black Sea. Such is supposed to have occurred some 7,500 years ago
and might well have been the time of ’The Flood’.
Many myths and legends are based on some core truth. Noah must have been a
great shipbuilder of the antique world and, for thousends of years, his ark
was probably the largest vessel under the sun.
.... On the other hand, maybe not.