Published December 12, 2012
First he found the Titanic -- will he find the only ship more famous?
Robert Ballard, the underwater archaeologist famed for discovering the wreck of the Titanic in 1985, claims to have found evidence of the biblical flood that Noah fled, surfing the waters for 40 days and 40 nights, according to Genesis. He says the Black Sea was once merely a freshwater lake -- until an enormous wall of water from the Mediterranean 200 times more powerful than Niagara Falls swept it and everything else away. Including Noah and his ark.
"We went in there to look for the flood," Ballard told ABC News. "Not just a slow moving, advancing rise of sea level, but a really big flood that then stayed ... the land that went under stayed under."
The archaeologist’s team is studying the Black Sea off the coast of Turkey in search of a civilization lost since biblical times, ABC reported, following up on a controversial theory from two Columbia University scientists. They connect the end of an Ice Age, when frozen sheets covered North America and stretched to the North Pole.
When they melted, yielding the more familiar Earth’s surface of today, what happened to the water?
"The questions is, was there a mother of all floods," Ballard asked.
Through carbon dating of shells found on an ancient shoreline 400 feet beneath the surface of the Black Sea, they have established a timeline for that catastrophic event that happened around 5,000 B.C., he estimated. Some experts believe this was around the time when Noah's flood could have occurred, ABC said.
Some archaeologists have supported the story of Noah, citing similar details passed along in narratives from Mesopotamian times, notably “the Epic of Gilgamesh.”
"The earlier Mesopotamian stories are very similar where the gods are sending a flood to wipe out humans," said biblical archaeologist Eric Cline. "There's one man they choose to survive. He builds a boat and brings on animals and lands on a mountain and lives happily ever after? I would argue that it's the same story."
Ballard says his team has found not just the shore and the shells, but pottery and even shipwrecks, evidence, he says, that the theory is correct. Nevertheless, the archaeologist doubts that Noah’s Ark itself will ever turn up.
"It's foolish to think you will ever find a ship," Ballard told ABC News, referring to the Ark. "But can you find people who were living? Can you find their villages that are underwater now? And the answer is yes."