J.J. Parrot, 1st Modern to Climb Mt. Ararat

Dan Graves, MSL

J.J. Parrot, 1st Modern to Climb Mt. Ararat

About a quarter past three on the 27th of September, 1829,* we stood on the top of Mt. Ararat," wrote Dr. J. J. Friedrich W. Parrot. He and five other men had just made the first modern ascent of the mountain in Turkey on which many Jews and Christians believe Noah's Ark came to rest.

Parrot's triumph was all the greater, because, in those days, mountaineering was not a well-developed sport; he had already tried the climb twice before and once had barely escaped a deadly fall.

This time, too, the climb was difficult. "The newly fallen snow which had been of some use to us in our former attempt, had since melted, from the increased heat of the weather, and was now changed into glacier ice, so that notwithstanding the moderate steepness of the acclivity, it would be necessary to cut steps from below." That is what he did.

The first thing he did at the top of the rounded 16,945 foot peak, was to sit down and rest, taking in the view. Unlike some later explorers Dr. Parrot did not claim to actually see the ark. The best he could suggest was that the ark might be buried under ice and snow on the saddle between the double peak. Considering that the ice is 300 feet thick, it would be surprising if the ark was visible--even if the large wooden vessel had landed at the top of mountain and not somewhere else, and if its wood had not decayed over the millennia.

Before leaving, Parrot erected a wooden cross he had carried up with him and held a prayer meeting. The following day, he returned to the monastery of St. James where monks had earlier shown him pieces of wood they claimed were from the ark.

When Parrot told his story to the world in the book Journey to Ararat, he was greeted with skepticism. Since Parrot was both a Christian and a well-respected professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Dorpat, his word should have been accepted, barring contrary evidence. However, many people doubted that Ararat, snow-capped as it was, could be climbed. Today, when the tallest mountains in the world are routinely conquered, skepticism seems completely unfair. At any rate, less than fifty years after Parrot, an Englishman, James Bryce, climbed Ararat again and printed a vindication of Parrot.

Parrot died in 1841. Many have claimed to see the ark or even to photograph it, but the proofs remain mysteriously elusive.

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*Parrot, working out of Russia, gave the Julian calendar date because Russia was still on the old calendar; on western calendars, the date would have been October 9th.

Bibliography:

  1. Balsiger, Dave and Sellier, Charles E. jr. In Search of Noah's Ark. Sun Classics, 1976.
  2. Montgomery, John Warwick. The Quest for Noah's Ark. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany Fellowship, 1972.
  3. Teeple, Howard Merle. The Noah's Ark Nonsense. Evanston, Illinois: Religion and Ethics Institute, 1978.

Last updated July, 2007

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