In an interview with Christiane Amanpour for ABC News
, as part of a two-part special "Back to the Beginning," Ballard speaks about his search for evidence of the Great Flood in Turkey. According to Ballard, he has a team searching the depths of the Black Sea off the coast of Turkey for evidence of an ancient civilization that was submerged underwater at about the time of the biblical flood.
This is not the first time Ballard has been involved in an underwater search. In 1985, he and his crew found the Titanic, using a robotic submersible equipped with special remote-controlled cameras.
According to ABC News
, Ballard, now armed with even more sophisticated robotic technology, is searching the Black Sea for evidence of the biblical story of Noah.
Ballard explains that a large part of the world was frozen in the ice age about 12,000 years ago. When the glaciers melted it caused a massive flood in several parts of the world over a period of time.
According to ABC News
, he said: "Where I live in Connecticut was ice a mile above my house, all the way back to the North Pole, about 15 million kilometers, that's a big ice cube. But then it started to melt. We're talking about the floods of our living history."
Ballad's theory is that the water from the melting ice flooded the oceans and caused floods that survived in collective memory as stories of the Great Flood, such as the biblical story of Noah and his Ark.
Columbia University archaeologists William Ryan and Walter Pitman, proposed there was a major flood in the Black Sea region
in early historical times. According to their controversial theory, the Black Sea was once a freshwater lake. It was suddenly flooded by salt-water from the Mediterranean Sea.
The Daily Mail
reports that more than 60,000 square miles of land were flooded, causing the level of the lake to rise by several hundred feet and merging with the Mediterranean. The catastrophe led to mass migration from the region. The dispersal of people also helped disseminate stories of a pristine Great Flood.
Working on the hypothesis
of a sudden massive flood in the Black Sea region, Ballard and his team are investigating the region for evidence of the biblical flood.
The theory is that memories of a major devastating flood in the Black Sea region lingered in collective memory and was passed on across the generations as the story of a great flood that inspired the familiar biblical account.
Scholars have for long pointed to the similarities between the details of the biblical flood story and common Mesopotamian flood stories such as the "Epic of Gilgamesh"
as evidence of a common memory of a great flood in early historic times. Some scholars argue that the biblical account of Noah and the Ark was inspired by the "The Epic of Gilgamesh."
Ballard told ABC News
: "We went in there to look for the flood. Not just a slow moving, advancing rise of sea level, but a really big flood that then stayed... The land that went under stayed under."
Ballard and his team claim that they have discovered an ancient shoreline four hundred feet below the surface. Ballard argues that this is proof that a catastrophic flood did happen in the Black Sea region. They estimated the time of the flood with carbon dating of shells found along the shoreline at around 5, 000 BC.
He comments: "It probably was a bad day. At some magic moment, it broke through and flooded this place violently, and a lot of real estate, 150,000 square kilometers of land, went under. We started finding structures that looked like they were man-made structures. That's where we are focusing our attention right now."
The team found ancient pottery, and last year, they discovered a vessel that was preserved in good condition. The Black Sea has very little oxygen, thus decay proceeds very slowly in its waters. Ballard explains: "That is a perfectly preserved ancient shipwreck in all its wood, looks like a lumber yard. But if you look closely, you will see the femur bone and actually a molar." He added: "The oldest shipwreck that we have discovered so far of that area is around 500 BC, classical period... but the question is you just keep searching. It's a matter of statistics."
While Ballard does not expect to find Noah's Ark, he is hoping to find evidence of a civilization that was suddenly submerged about 7,000 years ago. He said: "It's foolish to think you will ever find [the Ark]. But can you find people who were living? Can you find their villages that are underwater now? And the answer is yes."
Some historians draw parallels to the proposed event in early historic times with such recent events as the 2004 tsunami that cause widespread death and destruction, saying that an event of such magnitude in early history could have persisted in collective memory, giving rise to traditions such as the biblical flood story.