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Archive for August, 2013

I’m not sure exactly what Ararat tour organizer Amy Beam believes about the biblical story of Noah’s ark, but her website, http://www.mountararattrek.com, is a good source of information about Mount Ararat. I made use of some of her information on the NAMI ark scandal in my last post. She has also written that most of the guides in the area don’t believe the remains of the ark exist on Mount Ararat.

Elsewhere however, she affirms the common knowledge that access to the north side of Ararat is severely restricted. Special permission must be obtained from government officials, including the military, to enter the area at all, and apparently some areas of the mountain are off-limits altogether. Those who search for the ark can’t simply wander around the mountain, exploring wherever they want to go.

Amy Beam doesn’t believe the government of Turkey is trying to keep anything secret, but that the restrictions exist because of the dangers of that part of the mountain. Many of those dangers are evident in the story of the disappearance of Donald Mackenzie late in 2010. Sometime before his disappearance, he supposedly distributed some Bibles in an area north of Ararat where he had been living. That is a dangerous activity in many parts of the world, but Mackenzie also risked his life in other ways.

Working with “unofficial guides”, and attempting to explore the forbidden side of Ararat alone is a very dangerous undertaking. Mackenzie was also determined to investigate the NAMI discovery claim which is in an avalanche area. According to Mackenzie’s brother’s website, http://www.ararathunt.blogspot.com, Donald Mackenzie was determined to find out if the NAMI ark discovery claim was genuine or not.

Amy Beam also writes that the military conducts training exercises on the mountain when the climbing season ends, and that she has personally witnessed the mountain being shelled. I would like to know more than I do at present about the history of the ethnic struggles in the area surrounding Ararat. These struggles have played a huge role in the search for the ark.

In World War 1, the Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey) fought on the side of Germany against Russia and the Allies. Young Armenian men were drafted into the Ottoman Military but many were later executed because the Ottomans apparently feared they would defect to Russia.

George Hagopian was one of the young soldiers who escaped to Russia only to be arrested for entering the country with a false passport. He was sentenced to eighteen months labor in the Siberian coal mines. He later made his way to America, and his story of visiting Noah’s ark as a young boy eventually became known. I want to write more about that story later. The Armenians were driven out of what is now eastern Turkey, and the independent Russian state of modern Armenia encompasses only a small area of what was once known as Armenia. It no longer includes the Mount Ararat area.

After World War 1, the United States and the Allies hoped for independence for the Kurds, another minority group inhabiting eastern Turkey. An independent Kurdistan never materialized, and conflicts between the Turkish military and the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) continue in the area.

The PKK, formed in 1978, has been responsible for several kidnappings on Mount Ararat. On several occasions, the Turkish military has forced ark searchers off Mount Ararat because of the presence of the PKK on the mountain. It’s possible that the PKK could be responsible for the disappearance of Donald Mackenzie, or that he could have been mistaken for a PKK member, and shot by Turkish soldiers. The shelling of Mount Ararat, that Amy Beam witnessed, could have been the military firing upon the PKK on the mountain.

The shelling could also have been intended to render impassable some of the trails that have been used by smugglers since the times of the Ottoman Empire’s struggle with Russia. American soldier Ed Davis claimed to have been led along some of those trails to view the ark during World War 2.

The situation on Mount Ararat was very different before World War 1, and there are several stories of sightings of the ark from that time. Armenian shepherds kept flocks on the mountainsides, and the people of the surrounding villages came and went as they pleased. Those willing to enter the north side’s canyons were free to go wherever they wanted to risk climbing.

In 1840, an earthquake and subterranean explosion in the Ahora Gorge area, buried a nearby village and the Saint Jacob Monastery. No trace of the monastery, which contained artifacts said to be from the ark, has ever been found. The gorge was left much deeper than before, and due to crumbling rock and frequent avalanches, many of the areas cannot be reached by climbing.

Some of those searching for Noah’s ark believe that, with the exception of the ice cap, the north face has been explored adequately from the air. I personally doubt that every little side canyon can be viewed well enough from the air to guarantee that to be true. Debris from the ark, or even sections, could easily be overlooked in the patchwork of ice, snow, and rock slides in the shadows and mists of Mount Ararat.

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