Creation Museum Founder Builds $91 Million Model of Noah’s Ark in Kentucky

The full-size replica measures 510 feet long.

The Ark Encounter at sunset. Courtesy the Ark Encounter.
The Ark Encounter at sunset. Courtesy the Ark Encounter.

A controversial recreation of Noah’s ark is set to open next month in Kentucky, and it has state approval, despite concerns over separation of church and state.

Ark Encounter is a full-size replica of the Biblical vessel. Slated to open in Williamstown, Kentucky, on July 7, the ark could become a major tourist attraction.

It’s the work of Ken Ham, avowed evolution-denier and president of the Creationist Christian organization Answers in Genesis (AiG), which describes its mission as “upholding the authority of the Bible from the first verse.” Ark Encounter is an extension of Ham’s Creation Museum, in nearby Petersburg, Kentucky, which AiG opened in 2007.

Ken Ham, former President and First Lady Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, and Ark Encounter architect, Leroy Troyer touring the project in June 2016. Courtesy of Answers in Genesis.

Ken Ham, former President and First Lady Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, and Ark Encounter architect, Leroy Troyer touring the project in June 2016. Courtesy of Answers in Genesis.

The ark measures 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high, based on the dimensions given in the book of Genesis. The $91 million project will feature animatronic animals, including dinosaurs—which Ham believes coexisted with humans.

A local FOX affiliate has dubbed Ark Encounter “an evangelical Disney World of sorts” and reports that employees must sign a statement of faith that rejects homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and premarital sex, and affirms their belief in the book of Genesis and in Jesus.

“We didn’t build this just to be entertainment like Disney, we built it for a religious purpose,” Ham was quick to admit to FOX. “Otherwise we wouldn’t have built it.” He is predicting the ark will attract two million annual visitors.

This makes the reported $18 million in tax incentives granted to the museum by the state government somewhat problematic. (In January, a federal judge ruled in AiG’s favor in a case that accused the project of using discriminatory hiring practices and looked to withdraw the tax incentives.)

The Ark Encounter. Courtesy the Ark Encounter.

The Ark Encounter. Courtesy the Ark Encounter.

“I don’t think that the state ought to be involved in promoting any particular religious views,” Baptist minister Bob Fox told FOX, citing the importance of the separation of church and state.

In response, Governor Matt Bevin told the news station that he would not discriminate against a worthy economic project.

The Ark Encounter website touts the attraction, which will cost $40 for adults and $28 for children, as “bigger than imagination,” promising “you’ll experience the pages of the Bible like never before.”

A crew member inspects damages on the hull of a full-size replica of the Ark of Noah after it crashed into a moored coast guard vessel in Oslo harbor on June 10, 2016. Courtesy of photographer Hakon Mosvold Larsen/AFP/Getty Images.

A crew member inspects damages on the hull of a full-size replica of the Ark of Noah after it crashed into a moored coast guard vessel in Oslo harbor on June 10, 2016. Courtesy of photographer Hakon Mosvold Larsen/AFP/Getty Images.

Meanwhile, a significantly smaller recreation of Noah’s famous vessel was involved in an accident in Oslo, when the 230-foot-long craft crashed into a Norwegian Coast Guard patrol boat on June 10. It was en route to Brazil, in its first transatlantic journey.

The ship is the smaller of two models created by Dutch carpenter Johan Huibers based on Biblical descriptions. It took seven years to complete, and has no engine or steering mechanism. It was being towed by a tugboat when crew lost control of the ark, causing the collision.

“I’m shaking now,” Huibers told the New York Times. “It’s a terrible situation. It’s an awful dream, to have an accident with the ark of Noah.”


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