Said to have been constructed by Noah to accommodate his family, and representatives of each kind of animal, to save them from the great flood (Genesis 6–9). Its dimensions are given in the biblical account as 300 cubits long, 50 cubits broad, and 30 cubits high (1 cubit = 18–22 in./46–56 cm) and it was said to have been made of ‘gopher’ wood, which has been variously identified with cypress, cedar, and pine. It used to be an exercise of ‘rationalist’ theologians and others in the early 19th century to try to show that the ark was not big enough to house and feed all the species of animals aboard for the duration of the flood. As a consequence, some extraordinary theories were produced, one authority calculating that the ark would have needed to cover an area of half an acre, another estimating its tonnage at 81,062.
More recent research suggests that the ark was a large raft made from bundles of papyrus reeds, with only the animals' stalls and the family's shelter constructed of timber. Smaller rafts of this type, such as the gufah, or gopher, were at that time in normal use in the Euphrates–Tigris basin, where all timber suitable for shipbuilding was scarce. In Genesis 6: 14, when Noah is told to make an ark of gopher wood in which to escape the coming flood, this may be a mistranslation from the original Hebrew and should possibly read ‘an ark gopher of wood’. No wooden vessel, even an ark, is likely to be built of only one species of wood, and a gopher is a type of vessel which might well have been used as the basic design of the ark. The latest (2004) expedition to rediscover the remains of Noah's Ark is searching a part of Mount Ararat where high-resolution satellite photography has pinpointed what seems to be a large man-made object.
In the USA the term also used to be used to describe the large flat-bottomed vessels used for the carriage of produce down the major rivers.
Subjects: Maritime History.