Jerry Lemler next to one of the several stones on the “Ark

Within recent months a great interest has been resurrected in Noah’s
Ark; first it was all the jewelry and associated products hitting the
shelves of the stores with pictures and images depicting the Ark. Next
came a month of advertising for the movie and then the movie that
television moguls billed as the event of a lifetime and many Christians
viewed as historically incorrect.

Despite all the hoopla and questions on the Ark’s location, a
possible finding of the Ark inspires hope for many.

Four east Tennessee men have felt that hope on the trip of a lifetime
that led them on a dangerous adventure to Turkey to view what many claim
is the final resting spot of Noah’s Ark.

Attorney Ron Leadbetter, private investigator Barry Rice, physician
Jerry Lemler and his son — currently a West Point cadet, then high
school senior — Russell Lemler, are not explorers.

They are ordinary men who set off with intrigue in their eyes and
hope in their hearts to the mountains of Turkey; traveling to a region
explored by few before them. Recently they have chronicled their
difficult journey in a book entitled simply “Journey to Noah’s Ark, ”
which contains some of the only known photographs of the Noah’s Ark

A long-time adventurer, Leadbetter has taken many tumultuous trips in
the past, usually traveling with whatever vagabond party of friends he
can cajole into going with him. He is known for taking the kind of trips
that most vacationers would want no part of, not only because many of
them are in regions of the world not overly explored by the human
species, but many have been extremely exotic and dangerous.

“He has never been one to do the standard golfing in Saint Andrews or
touring the Vineyards of France,” said traveling companion Lemler.

Leadbetter’s interest in the Noah’s Ark site began after he met an
amateur archeologist from Nashville, Tenn., Ron Wyatt. Wyatt, who
traveled through the mountains of Turkey many times in the ’70s and ’80s
was convinced he had found Noah’s Ark and was instrumental in helping to
set up the visitors center presently located at the site.

The meeting between Leadbetter and Wyatt further fueled Leadbetter’s
desire to see the alleged ark site for himself; thus began a trip that
took three years to plan out.

In the past the exact location of where the Ark landed has caused a
huge controversy among explorers and archeologists alike. Many believe
the ark landed at Mount Ararat, while others argue that the Bible spoke
of the “mountains of Ararat.” Lemler and others believe that in this
case the word “mountains” is the clue.

“The plural mountains is the key, which does not necessarily mean
Ararat itself,” said Lemler.

Wyatt’s discovery was indeed several miles southwest of Mount Ararat,
on what is known as the “Duripinar site.”

According to Lemler, several samples taken in the ’70s and ’80s and
analyzed in the U.S. proved inconclusive.

“They did not find rock, they found living matter; carbon, so there
was something actively living in that structure at one time,” he said.

Many people in the past have written the site off as being only a
rock formation when tests have proven otherwise.

The formation was identified as a boat by a number of skilled
photogrammetry experts, and samples taken from around the Ark by
Wyatt were identified as organic matter by Galbraith Labs in Knoxville,

The formation also meets the size and height as identified in the
Bible. In an American perspective that is approximately the size of one
and one half football fields.

The site was not easily reached, down 10 miles of dirt roads and over
the mountain from Iran. It is a site Americans have been discouraged
from visiting, and in recent years the visitors center has been closed.

“Right now because of the even further escalation of hostilities in
the area, the site has been closed and we as far as we know are the last
westerners to have visited the site,” Lemler said.

Lemler’s group was fortunate; they not only were able to see the
site, but the guard Hassan, also known as the “guardian of the Ark,”
allowed them to walk out on the site exploring it firsthand.

This walk is what convinced them; they found hundreds of seashells on
a site that was located 50 miles away from the nearest body of water and
that was a freshwater lake.

“It was not like someone took a truckload of seashells and spread
them out for our pleasure, they were there on the boat and in the
immediate vicinity, but no where else in that region,” Lemler said.

He believes, as do the others that if it is not Noah’s Ark, it is an
amazing engineering feat by someone.

“We are not talking about someone out in a desert who sees a flying
saucer landing; we are talking about a physician, a West Point cadet, an
attorney and a private investigator, four people who generally have a
fair level of smarts, are inquisitive and are not four nuts who
absolutely had to find something,” he said.

All four of the men are convinced not necessarily that it is Noah’s
Ark — though it certainly appears to be — but that there is a boat on
a mountain with no other explanation of how it arrived there.

Once returning to the U.S., the men began to talk to various civic
and religious groups telling of their experiences, showing the video,
the pictures, the shells and the ballast brought home with them. Each
group was curious and wanted more; that is when the idea and the writing
of the book came about.

Lemler describes the experience in Eastern Turkey as awe inspiring:
“It is like when I was a kid and touched the Liberty Bell for the first
time, only on a much larger scale,” he said.

Journey to Noah’s Ark is available at Barnes and Noble and from the
group’s website.

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