Over the decades, many explorers have hunted for Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat, and a number claimed to find the boat.
Russian World War I aviator Vladimir Roskovitsky claimed to see a large ship resting high on Mount Ararat in 1917. The astronaut James Irwin led a number of disappointing expeditions to Mt. Ararat between 1982 and 1986. French industrialist Fernand Navarra ascended Ararat in 1955, recovering a piece of oak initially dated 5,000 years old; more accurate carbon dating later showed it in the range of A.D. 620 to A.D. 90.
However, NAMI claims that their expedition was the first to invest several years of effort with the locals. Starting in 2004, NAMI spent several months every year at the mountain conducting searches while also maintaining contact with local fixers. What began as a documentary about the legend of Noah’s Ark turned into their own obsession with finding the mythic vessel when a local guide by the name of Parasut told them in mid-2008 that he knew the boat’s location. One team member, Panda Lee, visited the location that October.
Wei says bad weather prevented NAMI from reaching the site again until October 2009, this time with a three-person film crew. They took video and rock and wood samples, which they then sent to a university in Tehran, Iran – she declined to reveal which one – for radiocarbon dating. This showed the wood to be 4,800 years old, Wei says. The team then spent several months speaking with Turkish officials and researchers before holding this week’s press conference in Hong Kong, which set off a firestorm of media reports on major outlets such as Fox News and Good Morning America.