Noah’s Ark is the first maritime vessel in the history of humankind about which some technical details are documented. According to the Book of Genesis’ chapters 6 and 8, God gave to Noah what one may call a rough specification for the ark. Its overall dimensions are astounding – there are no other known wooden maritime vessels of even nearly the length of the ark, approx. 150 meters. Therefore, the question may arise whether the story of Noah’s Ark might be pure mythology. This paper addresses that very question and looks into whether said rough specification was feasible at all. While other authors have above all evaluated the ark’s stability (its ability to return to an upright position after some list), this paper focuses on questions of the static strength of the design – the main expertise of its author.
As a first step, based on the above-mentioned rough specification and some (engineering) reasoning, a somewhat detailed description of what the overall layout of the ark could reasonably have looked like is developed in chapter 3. Then a potential structural layout is defined (chapter 4) and the shapes of individual structural members such as skins, the bottom, decks, frames, etc. are developed (chapter 5).
After that, the static strength analysis – the heart of the paper – is described. The main focus is on longitudinal strength (chapter 6) but lateral (7.1) and torsional strength (7.2) are also addressed in some detail. The result is a reasonable design, the dimensions of whose structural members all fit within the volume of average tree trunks and whose structure as a whole does neither, by any chance, take up too much space (at the expense of available internal volume) nor weigh so much as to compromise the ark’s seaworthiness in any way.
Though static strength is the main focus of the paper, it also briefly discusses some aspects of structural fatigue (in chapter 3) and stability and ride quality (7.3).
The paper concludes, in chapter 8, that a wooden vessel like Noah’s Ark could indeed have been built and that there is no reason to dismiss the story of Noah’s Ark as a myth on account of an infeasible specification for that vessel. To the contrary, the author argues that the fact that the book of Genesis describes, albeit at a not very detailed level, a feasible design, might be seen as pointing in the very opposite direction.
Finally, the paper naturally also contains a list of references (chapter 9) as well as, in its final chapter 10, more detailed information on the calculations which have been discussed, in less detail, in previous chapters.