The QuickBird satellite is taking photographs of Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey, trying to spot the remains of Noah’s Ark. Aircraft pictures taken in the late 1940s, as well as more recent secret spy satellite shots of the area, have revealed what could be nothing more than an unusual geological formation, but it could also be the remains of the ark. Porcher Taylor, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, has worked for years to get the CIA to declassify satellite images and other information related to the unidentified feature on Mt. Ararat in Turkey.
A partial set of aerial images taken over that location in June 1949 has been declassified, and they show something strange at the 15,500-foot level on the mountain’s Northwestern Plateau. Taylor says that two high-powered intelligence-gathering satellites, the Keyhole-9 in 1973 and the Keyhole-11 in 1976, aimed their cameras at the mountain. The anomaly they captured on film is more than 600-feet long. Photo interpretation specialists think they can see an actual boat structure in the pictures, yet they remain classified for now.
“I want to solve the enduring mystery of the Ararat Anomaly, no matter what it may be,” Taylor says. Now that so many satellites are being launched for commercial reasons, it?s possible to pay to get images of the area. From October 1999 until the summer of 2000, images of the mountain and the object in question were taken by the IKONOS spacecraft, owned and operated by Space Imaging of Colorado. However, those pictures weren?t clear enough to resolve the issue.
Now another commercial satellite, QuickBird, will try again. “QuickBird is capable of shedding more light on what the anomaly may or may not be,” Taylor says. It was launched in October 2001 and is billed as the world’s highest resolution commercial imaging satellite. It can see things as small as 2 feet wide.
“We have acquired four images of Mt. Ararat and all have been cloud covered to date,” says Chuck Herring of DigitalGlobe, the owner of QuickBird. “We continue to task this event and will get Porcher Taylor an image as soon as we get a good image.?
“Because of constant cloud cover it’s tough?[It?s on] a permanent ice cap at 15,000 feet up on the mountain. It is a unique and unexplored site on Mt. Ararat. You’re going to have to have ideal weather conditions and a lot of luck when you’re flying over to see it,” Taylor says. If QuickBird captures a suggestive image, it will give Taylor more leverage to convince the Bush administration to declassify the earlier Keyhole satellite images.
The National Imagery and Mapping Agency will soon release some vintage Keyhole-7 and Keyhole-9 pictures to the public, and Taylor hopes Mt. Ararat photos are among them. He?s gotten together a “world class” imagery team to look at new QuickBird images and older Keyhole photos.
One of the team members is Farouk El-Baz, who worked on the Apollo program. In conversations with former Apollo 15 moonwalker James Irwin, El-Baz learned of the astronaut?s six expeditions to Mt. Ararat in a search of the ark. “Irwin told me he saw something,? says El-Baz. ?He felt it was an imprint on the land of the boat that was turned upside down?perhaps with some soil on top.
“There is absolutely nothing in all the pictures that we have seen up to now that is questionable in my mind,? says El-Baz. ?I can explain each and everything as a natural snow bank?a shadow. There is nothing.? But he adds, ?From all the points of view, there is definitely enough in this to warrant spending time to resolve the issue, one way or the other. So I don’t consider it a waste of time.”
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