The newly opened life-sized Noah ark replica, in Williamstown, KY, is 120,000 square feet of hellfire-tinged, free-ranging weirdness. Located 45 minutes from its sister attraction the Creation Museum, the Ark Encounter bills itself as a “one-of-a-kind, historically themed attraction.” And the collision between Biblical history and the evolutionary history of life are at the focal point of this family-friendly park.
By Eric Allen Been | MOTHERBOARD
The Christian fundamentalist organization behind the attraction is Answers in Genesis, or AiG, which is headed by Ken Ham (the Australian-born creationist who notably debated Bill Nye the Science Guy in 2014). At the core of AiG’s beliefs is their literal reading of the Book of Genesis—where God fashioned the universe in six days, the earth is a mere 6,000 years old, and humans and dinosaurs lived during the same period. Parables don’t apply. For these young earthers, the Genesis flood narrative is fact. God, for instance, really did divinely instruct Noah to build his boat and the flood subsequently annihilated everything that “moved on the earth.” Times, though, are better for the reproduced ark. This simulacra comes equipped with Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and a nearby, 1,500-seat restaurant that serves comfort food and gluten-free options.
Ham and company are forecasting more than 2 million people could visit the attraction this year. When I recently visited, though, the crowd was steady but sparse (still, their seemingly target market, children, was the largest demographic there). Undoubtedly, the sheer size and scale of the vessel—which is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 81 feet tall—is striking. The first floor of the structure (one of three decks) is devoted to both displaying how species were housed and fed on the ark while simultaneously quarrelling with those who view the logistics of the ark story as absurd.