The biblical Noah may have survived the flooding of the planet with the construction of his ark, but for the owners of the 510-foot-long Noah’s Ark replica in Northern Kentucky, stretches of heavy rain presented such a crisis that they are suing their insurers over water damage.
The Noah’s ark replica itself made it through the rain intact, a representative for Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky, informed CNN. But the rainfall in 2017 and 2018 caused a “significant landslide” on the property, which undermined an access road that leads to the wooden vessel. The harsh terrain made it dangerous to use the ship, according to the lawsuit.
Melany Ethridge of Ark Encounter said that the waters failed to reach biblical proportions. “Contrary to some reporting, the damage to certain areas of the Ark Encounter themed attraction was not caused by a ‘flood,’ ” she said in an email to CNN. “The ark was built on bedrock and was never in jeopardy.”
The repairs cost around $1 million, according to court documents that say insurers told the owners of the ark that opened in 2016 to go ahead with the repairs. But since then, the insurers have reportedly only paid “a very small portion” of the cost. The 77-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court asks for compensatory and punitive damages.
“You got to get to the boat to be on the boat,” Ethridge told the Courier-Journal.
A spokesperson for the law firm filing the suit said, “The lawsuit speaks for itself. We don’t have anything to add at this time, other than to say that we are highly confident of the merits of our case as we seek a fair resolution to the matter.” The statement also said Ark Encounter guests have been unaffected by the work being done at the access road. “Hours of operation were never affected.”
On its website, Ark Encounter said, “Prepare to be blown away as you explore the life-sized reconstruction of Noah’s Ark. Built according to the dimensions given in the Bible, Ark Encounter is a jaw-dropping structure you’ll want to bring your whole family to see.”
The park website asks: “How big was Noah’s Ark? How did Noah fit all the animals? How did Noah feed and care for all the animals? How did Noah build the Ark? We built the full-size Noah’s Ark to answer these questions—and more! As you enter Noah’s world aboard the massive Ark, you’ll tour three decks filled with scores of world-class exhibit bays. These stunning exhibits allow you to experience what Noah’s life may have been like.”
A one-day ticket to the Noah’s ark replica costs between $15 and $48. Ark Encounter has claimed attendance of at least 1 million visitors a year, though that number has been disputed.
Ark Encounter opened on July 7, 2016, a date (7/7) that was selected to link to the 7:7 passage in Genesis: “And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood.” Answers in Genesis, a creationist religious organization that believes God created the Earth in six days and that the world is 6,000 years old, is the force behind the building of the modern-day re-creation.
While Noah is said to have taken from 55 to 75 years to build his ark, the new ark was raised in Kentucky in two years. Once it was constructed, Noah herded the world’s animals, two by two, into his vessel. There are no live animals in the ark in Kentucky, but lots of models for visitors to see.
The ark, which cost a rumored $100 million to build, has been the subject of controversy all along. Answers in Genesis was awarded a tax break by the state, which led to cries of separation of church and state and ensuing legal fuss.
Nancy Bilyeau, a former staff editor at Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and InStyle, has written a trilogy of historical thrillers for Touchstone Books. Her new book, The Blue, is a spy story set in the 18th-century porcelain world. For more information, go to www.nancybilyeau.com