- SPECIAL REPORTS
- THE MAGAZINE
LAND INFO International LLC, a leading producer of international mapping and geospatial products, has offered its services to Porcher Taylor, a U.S. intelligence expert leading an effort to identify an anomaly on Turkey's Mt. Ararat. Near the top of the mountain, sits a 600-foot rectangular-shaped object, which many believe is the remnants of Noah's Ark. The "Anomaly" was first discovered and photographed by U.S. Air Force pilots during a routine mission in 1949. Since then, numerous U.S. spy satellites have confirmed that the object does not naturally fit into the mountain's landscape. Further heating the argument, several CIA imagery analysts have speculated that the object appears to be nautical in structure. The subject remains a mystery because all but four of these photos have been declassified for researchers and the international public. Now, with the evolving capabilities of commercial GIS and remote-sensing technologies, including LAND INFO's three-dimensional terrain modeling, the convincing proof may be just weeks away.
The biblical tale of Noah's Ark, the great flood, and the boat's landing somewhere in the "mountains of Ararat" are accepted by all three major religions, Christians, Jews and Muslims. The controversy surrounds the fact that no one has ever produced conclusive, scientific proof that the Ark ever existed. Over the past 50 years, dozens of private expeditions have climbed the mountain seeking proof. The primary challenge is navigating Ararat's rough terrain to get to the Anomaly site. The closest any one has come is about a mile and a half from the site. The Anomaly is on the northwestern side of the mountain, at a lofty 15,500 foot elevation, approximately 2,000 feet below Ararat's summit. Weather conditions have also hampered search efforts. The Anomaly is submerged in a permanent glacier, and frequently covered in deep snow. Heavy cloud cover, snow, and glacial conditions dictate how much the satellites can photograph. Successful imagery missions and on-site expeditions must be timed with minimal cloud cover and heavy glacial melting.
Since 1993, Porcher Taylor, III, has led the fight to unravel the mystery of the Ark. Taylor is a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, a Washington D.C. think-tank. He is also an Assistant Professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia. Taylor was responsible for getting the government to declassify the four 1949 photos. However, these photos are just a handful of hundreds of classified photos of the Anomaly area. Taylor continues to seek declassification of all available photos. Simultaneously, Taylor has turned to commercial GIS technology in his pursuit for the truth about the Mt. Ararat Anomaly.
In 2000, Space Imaging's Ikonos satellite captured several shots of the Anomaly over Mt. Ararat. However, the imagery did not conclusively end the mystery. Taylor is now working with DigitalGlobe, and its new 2-foot resolution satellite, to acquire new photos. Clear photos at this resolution would be a major stepping stone for the project.
Taylor's work also involves other support GIS datasets. He contacted LAND INFO International to support his analysis and presentational needs. LAND INFO produced a high-resolution digital elevation model (DEM) of Mt. Ararat. "I am very excited to have LAND INFO on our team," commented Taylor. "They moved quickly to produce a high-quality 3D model of the mountain that will be a great help to our team." The DEM will be integrated with other datasets to aid analysis of imagery and create simulations of the Anomaly area. For example, the DEM will help scientists compare the Anomaly's characteristics with the mountain's natural terrain. The next step for Taylor is to acquire and publish conclusive images with expert analysis that proves the Anomaly is man-made. This would prompt further pressure for the American government to declassify the remaining Anomaly photos. Most significantly, this would also provide the trigger for Turkish officials to authorize a military mission to the Anomaly site. This type of mission would involve sending a helicopter team to view the site up close and potentially acquire samples for lab testing.
Lab tests, particularly modern DNA testing, could verify the substance of the Anomaly objects. According to the Bible, Noah was instructed by God to build the Ark from "gopher wood." The experts believe the year-round glacial conditions will help preserve any remnants on the mountain. The Ark was thought to be built over 5,000 years ago. Modern DNA testing will also be able to verify if animals came in contact with the objects.