Johan Huiber’s dream almost sank last Friday when his reproduction of Noah’s Ark collided with a Norwegian Coast Guard vessel in Oslo Harbor.
Like the Biblical original, Huiber’s ark has no engine or rudder, meaning that cruises require towing the ark. While moving the ark to a new location for exhibit, the tugboat lost control, sending the ark careening into a large Coast Guard vessel. The wood slat exterior of the ark was severely damaged, but this did not affect the boat’s buoyancy. Unlike the original, Huiber’s ark is essentially a wooden structure built on a large metal barge.
The ark is a tourist attraction and is frequently towed to new locations around Norway but this is the first accident that has occurred during one of these ventures. Fortunately, the domesticated animals that are usually on board as part of the exhibit had been removed before the accident.
The ark is the smaller of two versions of Noah’s ark Huiber built according to the dimensions described in the Bible.
And this is how thou shalt make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. Genesis 6:15
The smaller version that was damaged in the collision is half the size described in the bible, measuring in at 68.5 meters long and 45 meters wide. It was sold to Aad Peters, a Dutch puppeteer, television producer and philanthropist, in 2010. The original was made from enigmatic Gopher wood, but since it is unclear what type of tree that is, Huiber used American Cedar and Pine over a steel frame. Built in 2007, it took Huiber one and a half years to build.
When he finished the first ark, he opened it as a tourist attraction, using $4 million from the proceeds to build a second, full-sized, ark, twice as large. The larger version, completed in 2012, has five decks and can accommodate 5,000 people at a time. It moved to Rotterdam earlier this year from its previous mooring in the Dutch port of Dordrecht.
The recent accident does not bode well, as Huiber plans to tow the larger ark 5,200 miles this summer to to Rio de Janeiro in time for the Paralympic Games in September.Though its efficacy as a refuge from divine precipitation is questionable and its seaworthiness is now in doubt, the ark is a popular tourist attraction, expected to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors in its extended visit in Brazil. There are tentative plans to continue its tour of the Western Hemisphere after an extended stay in South America, perhaps even arriving at the west Coast of the United States.
Huiber, a devout Christian, decided to build the ark after dreaming that a fierce storm-tide flooded the entire province of Nood-Holland in the Netherlands, his hometown. After becoming successful as a building contractor, Huiber was able to realize his dream.
Many replicas of the ark have been built but most are more modest. The Biblical dimensions are, even by modern standards, intimidating. An ark in Hong Kong is the only other full-size replica in existence, but, like many smaller versions, it is a landlocked building with an ark-like facade.
Another, being built in Williamstown, Kentucky, will need more than 40 days of rain to float away. When completed this summer, it will be the largest timber-framed building in the world. Ark-like in appearance, it is firmly anchored to the ground by concrete pillars. Huiber’s ark remains the only full size floating replica of Noah’s divinely commanded masterpiece.