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Beneath the Sea
. .

The Truth Behind Noah's Flood

4 pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |
By Jacqueline S. Mitchell

In "Into the Deep," underwater explorer Bob Ballard shares with Alan stories of his incredible oceanic adventures. Renowned for finding the wreck of the Titanic and discovering hydrothermal vents, Ballard is also interested in solving the mystery of Noah's flood. Was this great biblical cataclysm in fact a real event that we can find traces of today? Ballard has led expeditions to the Black Sea searching for direct evidence of an ancient flood.
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Early Clues

The story of Noah and the great flood is one that so permeates our culture that generations of geologists have devoted their lives to looking for evidence of a prehistoric worldwide flood. But it was not until the 1990's that geologists William Ryan and Walter Pitman gathered clues pointing to an actual ancient flood in the Middle East about 7,500 years ago. Sediment core-samples the scientists took from the bottom of the Black Sea revealed sections of once-dry, sun-baked land.

Map of William Ryan and Walter Pittman
Geologists Walter Pitman and William Ryan were the first to gather evidence that the Black Sea flooded 7500 years ago

These sediments were then covered by sections of uniform mud, strongly suggesting that these plains underwent a long-ago influx of saltwater. Though not worldwide, this cataclysmic event occurred at what could have been a locus of human activity at the time.

The Black Sea: Before and After

In their 1998 book, Noah's Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries about the Event that Changed History, Ryan and Pitman suggest the Black Sea was once a much smaller, land-locked freshwater lake, fed by ancient rivers, and surrounded by fertile plains. Neolithic people, Ryan and Pitman suppose, would have flocked to farm these Eden-like plains to farm them while supplementing their diets with the lake's abundant shellfish.

At this time - about 7,500 years ago - the global climate was still rapidly warming following the last Ice Age, causing the seas to rise. Ryan and Pitman hypothesize that, when sea levels rose beyond a critical point, the Mediterranean Sea overflowed, deluging the Black Sea basin with salty water and destroying the fertile plains around the once-shallow freshwater lake.

Map of Mediterranean and Black Seas
Pitman and Ryan proposed the Mediterranean Sea surged north through the Bosporus Straits to form the larger, salty Black Sea we know today.

Any people living on those plains at the time would have witnessed what must have seemed like the wrath of an angry god. Based on the still northern flowing undercurrents of what we call the Bosporus Straits, Ryan and Pitman estimate the water rushed northward through this channel with force many times greater than Niagara Falls. As the waters rose about six inches per day, human settlements would have been washed away or under hundreds of feet of water within a year or so. Traumatized refugees from the flood must have told their story to shocked listeners. Is this the story so many of us still tell our children today?

Inspired by Ryan and Pitman's work, Bob Ballard and an international team of specialized scientists and engineers took a small fleet of ships and remotely operated vehicles (ROV's) into the Black Sea seeking evidence of human habitation before the flood.
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4 pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |

Images: Doutone Image: "The ROV Little Hercules was used by Ballard to explore the Black Sea." Institute for Exploration; Columbia Earth Institute; Map provided by Texas A&M University Libraries and United States Central Intelligence Agency, 1986

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