It takes grit to pursue a dream, and for Dutch carpenter Johan Huibers, a literal dream drove him to recreate Noah’s Ark. Convinced that he’d received a sign from God after a nightmare in which epic storms flooded Holland, the devout Christian determined to teach the world about coming end times, using as an evangelical tool a copy of the Biblical boat in which Noah, his family, and the animals survived the Great Flood. Read Karin’s post about how the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo is considered “a genetic Ark.”
“It’s meant to educate, a reminder that our world is changing, will continue to change, as we see now because of global warming, rising sea levels, fires,” Huibers said in an interview on the TODAY show. He added, “This much-loved story, with its animals and message of salvation, easily attracts people. Everyone has some notion of it. And if you can show how the Ark must have looked, it brings the whole Bible closer.
“I believe we are living in the end of times,” he concluded. “We’re not conscious of it. People never are.”
Huibers first built a smaller model of the Ark, completed in 2007. He had done most of the work alone, with some help from volunteers and his son. Its size, half of the Biblical Ark’s, was calculated to allow it to pass through the Dutch locks and canals. The boat visited 21 Dutch towns and received 600,000 visitors over 3.5 years. When Huibers felt impelled to construct a full-sized Ark according to the Biblical specifications, he sold the first model to an artist. It came to a sad end when it slipped its moorings during a storm and crashed into a Norwegian patrol boat.
It took four years, seven workers and $5 million in donations to build the second Ark., which opened to the public in 2012. At 30 meters wide, 23 meters high and 135 meters long, this 3,000-ton boat has ten times the capacity of the first model, holding more than 5000 people. Huibers built it by the specifications laid out in the book of Genesis: “three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.”
Inside are five decks with stalls and pens for real animals (there was a small petting zoo inside the Ark at one point) and life-sized model animals, as well as storage spaces and rooms for Noah’s family. The interior has a large amphitheater where visitors can watch a video and browse through displays. There is also a conference room and a café.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors have already climbed through the Ark, the majority being school children. It’s currently anchored in the port of Dordrecht, but is closed over a local bureaucratic wrangle and safety concerns. Huibers protests that the ship is safe and insured, and that its fire extinguishing equipment is at a higher standard that the law demands. In addition, the Ark has an anchor that qualifies it as as a building.
“This is a copy of God’s ship. It only makes sense to take it to God’s land,” he says. “I love the land, I love the country, I love the people. They don’t obey,” he says humorously, “They do what they want, they drive like mad, shove while waiting in line and don’t listen to anyone. Just like me.”
Plans for sailing to Israel or anywhere else have been put on hold until donations to the tune of $1.3 million come in, to cover renting tugboats. Because the Ark doesn’t have an engine, of course.
Ark of Noah Foundation