An Ark Rises in Kentucky
Life-size Ark Encounter exhibit aims to boost creation understanding, sponsor says
A replica of Noah's Ark, built to the "long cubit" standard of 21 inches per cubit, has opened in northern Kentucky, afloat in a sea of controversy. Some decried the granting of state tax breaks to the project, even though those breaks are available without discrimination. One network reporter blasted the exhibit for promoting "an ignorant view."
But its sponsors, an evangelical ministry known as Answers in Genesis, welcome the challenges. They insist the new exhibit will not only document the Noachian flood of Genesis 6, but also help support a recent, young Earth, six-day Creation model.
The Ark stands seven stories high and is 510 feet in length. Answers in Genesis says the Ark is the largest freestanding, timber-frame structure in the world. The Ark boasts three decks of what the group called "world-class exhibits" in a total of more than 120,000 square feet. Sitting on 800 acres, the Ark Experience theme park "includes the Ararat Ridge Zoo, daily animal shows, zip lines, live entertainment, a 1,500-seat themed restaurant and fair-trade shopping," the organization said in a news release.
According to Bodie Hodge, a speaker, writer and researcher with Answers in Genesis, those who don't believe in Creation tend to doubt the first 11 chapters of Genesis, which include the account of the flood.
The Bible "talks extensively about the Ark and the flood," Hodge said. But, he added, a flood is also "one of the big hang-ups for the secularists. Noah's flood accounts for the majority of rock layers around the world that have fossils in them. We agree [with secularists] on the presence of rock layers, but disagree over how they were formed."
Hodge said, "In the secular world, you cannot have a global flood and millions of years" for evolution.
Documenting the validity of Creation is something Answers in Genesis has done for decades. Founder Ken Ham regularly writes and lectures on the topic and notably debated former public television "Science Guy" Bill Nye, who spoke on behalf of evolutionary theory. The 2014 debate, recorded and posted to YouTube, has been viewed online by more than 5.5 million people.
Interestingly, Nye toured the Ark Encounter exhibit with Ham a few weeks ago. While Nye said he remained unconvinced about the flood, he accepted Ham's offer to pray for Nye on the spot.
Hodge, in a telephone interview with Adventist Review, emphasized that it was important to build the Ark in a full-size scale in order to convey the magnitude of the project — and to demonstrate that the Genesis account is plausible.
Visitors, he said, will "see the size and say 'Wow, this really possible.' They need to see the actual size of the Ark to say, wow, that's an impressive structure."
So far, he said, those visitors have been impressed.
"Just about everybody that’s come through here has been blown away," Hodge said. "There are exhibits that are just world class. People are pretty excited about it. One of the things our people have noticed, is that Christians and non-Christians come through. It makes them think about it, talk about it."
Speaking to reporters at a July 7 preview event, Ham said, "I believe you’re going to find all sorts of people from all walks of life with all sorts of religious backgrounds who are going to come here. And even if they don’t share our biblical view, they can’t help but be impressed by the structure, craftsmanship and by the attention to detail of the … exhibits inside. And who knows? Maybe they’ll be challenged to even talk about the Bible."
Among the early visitors to the ship was former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, a friend of the contractor, LeRoy Troyer, who built it. Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter toured the structure with Ham and Troyer.
In a statement, Carter, who has built numerous houses for Habitat for Humanity, said, "The Ark is remarkable. And it’s some of the best wood-working I’ve ever seen. My friend LeRoy Troyer has done a tremendous job."
Hodge said the ministry had contemplated building the Ark Encounter for 15 years.
"One of the main messages behind Answers in Genesis is to try to teach the world that the Bible is true. … We want people to know the accounts in the Bible are trustworthy," he said.
So far, between 4,000 and 8,000 people have visited the Ark Encounter daily. First-year headcount is projected to be between 1.4 million and 2.2 million visitors, the group said. Tickets, ranging from $40 for adults to $28 for children, are available online at ArkEncounter.com.
Hodge noted that inclement weather — a potential drawback at many theme parks — might well come in handy when viewing the Ark.
"This is the one attraction in the world that you want to go through when it's raining," he said. "I happened to be out there when it's raining, and you can't beat this."