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Haji Yearam[note 1] (1838-1920)[note 2] was an Armenian Seventh-Day Adventist. According to young-Earth creationists, in 1856 (also given as 1854)[note 3] Yearam led three "atheistic" scientists to the site of Noah's Ark (on top of a mountain). In the tale, the scientists became enraged, tried & failed to destroy the boat, and forced Haji to swear to secrecy on threat of death. The story ends when, around the time of Haji's death, one of the scientists published a confession of his actions.
Young Earth Creationists often retell stories of Haji's expedition colorfully and (more importantly) without any evidence that it actually happened.
The story is typical of stories of Noah's Ark sightings: exciting, conspiratorial, and utterly baseless.
- The History:
- Haji Yearam's parents and family lived at the foot of Greater Mount Ararat in Armenia. According to their traditions, they were descended directly from those who had come out of the ark (wait, wouldn't everyone be?), but who had never migrated from that country. The descendants of Ham and his sympathizers had migrated over into the land of Shinar and built the Tower of Babel, and others had migrated to other countries, but Haji's forebears had always remained near the mount where the ark had come to rest in a little valley surrounded by some small peaks about three-quarters or more up the mountain. For several hundred years after the flood his forebears had made yearly pilgrimages up to the ark to make sacrifices and to worship there. They had a good trail and steps in the steep places. Finally the enemies of God undertook to go to Ararat and destroy the ark, but as they neared the location there came a terrible storm that washed away the trail, and lightning blasted the rocks. From that time on, even the pilgrimages ceased, because they feared to betray the way to the ungodly and feared God's wrath. They took that terrible storm to be a token that God did not want the ark disturbed until near the end of the world, when they believed that its presence would be revealed to the whole world. However, the tribesmen there handed down the legends from generation to generation, and from time to time lonely shepherds or hunters in very hot summers came back with stories that they had reached the little valley and had actually seen one end of the ark where it had been made visible by the melting of snow and ice.
- no description
- The Journey: In 1856, Haji Yearam (then a young adult) and his father (who had gone there often as a boy, and who thought it was time the world knew of the Ark) were paid to accompany to the ark on Ararat three scientists, who were:
- atheistic. Their goal was to disprove the Ark's existence.
- vile men who did not believe in the Bible and did not believe in the evidence of a personal God. Their goal was to disprove the Ark's existence.
- evolutionists - clearly of the precognitive sort, since the publication of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species was still three years in the future.
- no description
- The Ark:
- A little way down from the top of Greater Ararat, the party came to a little valley surrounded by a little lake; the peaks protected it from the tidal waves that rushed back and forth as the flood subsided. They found the prow of a mighty ship protruding out of the ice. It was divided up into many floors and stages and compartments and had bars like the animal cages of today. The whole structure was covered with a varnish or lacquer that was very thick and strong, both outside and inside the ship. The ship was built more like a great and mighty house on the hull of a ship, but without any windows. There was a great doorway of immense size, but the door was missing.
- no description
- The Rage: The three scientists were enraged at discovering the ark and tried to destroy it. They could not, because:
- it was too big and had petrified.
- the wood was more like stone than any wood we have now. They did tear out some timbers and tried to burn the wood, but it was so hard it was almost impossible to burn it. They did not have the tools or means to wreck so mighty a ship and had to give up.
- no description
- The Conspiracy: The three scientists held a council, and:
- swore to tell nobody else.
- swore to tell nobody else and murder and torture anyone present who talked about the Ark. They told Yearam and his father that they would keep tabs on them and that if they ever told anyone, they would be murdered and tortured. For fear of their lives, Haji and his father never told what they found except to their best trusted and closest relatives.
- no description
- The Retelling: Haji Yearam lived out his final days in America. "Being both an earnest Christian and a typically astute Armenian businessman, Haji prospered. Several times he amassed a small fortune, intending to return to his far-off home in Armenia, but each time, robbers foiled his attempt. At last he found himself, aging and broke, starting all over again in a city on the West Coast (Oakland, California)." Harold N. Williams took care of the elderly Yearam. Yearam confessed his entire story, in detail, to Williams and died in the Williams family home between 1915 and 1920; see "Contradictions" below for details on the ambiguity. Yearam died in the Williams family home in 1920. In 1952, Williams, then pastor of a Seventh-day Adventist church in Logansport, Indiana, recounted reading a very small story in a Boston daily newspaper in 1918 that documented a dying London scientist's confession. The story briefly gave the same dates and facts that Yearam had given, in every detail. Williams said that, after that, he "knew positively that the story was true in every detail." Unfortunately, absolutely none of this could be corroborated because:
This story is riddled with more holes than a cheese grater.
Lack of evidence
“”The three egotistical atheists who visited the Ark guided by Haji Yearam and his father have never been identified. In all likelihood they never will unless the elusive newspaper article turns up. [....] They must have covered their tracks well, because no reference can be found in any of the scientific or travel journals of their day.
|—LaHaye, Tim and Morris, John, The Ark on Ararat, 1976|
First and foremost, there's literally no evidence for this expedition. The burden of proof is on those who believe this story, and they have failed to fulfill it. No one has ever produced evidence:
- that there was a local tradition of visiting the Ark.
- that any local group of Armenians claims knowledge of the Ark's location.
- that such an expedition left England.
- that Yearam was hired as a guide whatsoever.
- that said newspaper article ever existed.
If even one of these points is unsupported, it is fatal to the creationist narrative. As it currently stands, they are all unsupported.
Lack of newspaper article
“”[W]ithout an exact date and the name of the newspaper, finding such an article would be like finding a needle in a haystack. The problem is compounded by the date being so old, it is possible that the paper went out of business and no copies exist.
It should be noted that there was a fire at Williams's place of employment in which the newspaper and Yearam's testimony could feasibly have been destroyed. However, the idea that retracing the reference is like "finding a needle in a haystack" does not hold water. Many old newspapers have been scanned and are available in digital, searchable format. Even if no copies survive of this particular newspaper, it is inconceivable that the only newspaper in the world that found this story newsworthy just happened to be a paper published in the area where Harold Williams was around to read it, who just happened to be the person Haji Yearam had confided in before his death. One would think that some British papers, at least, would also mention this remarkable confession of a supposed "London scientist" of note.
In other words, when Yearam moved halfway across the world from Armenia to the USA, the one pastor he confided in accidentally moved to the one area where a newspaper editor would think it worthwhile to mention the deathbed confession of a British scientist that he had found Noah's Ark many decades earlier. Are you sensing a pattern here?
Lack of expedition
The Ark File presents the most complete set of evidence for a possible expedition, which is still found wanting:
[S]everal expeditions to Mount Ararat have been traced to that time period, even though their exact composition and membership is rather obscure. Fernand Navarra once mentioned having received a call from “a Frenchman whose grandfather had participated in an expedition to Ararat under Napoleon III, and had brought back a piece of wood given to him as a gift from the natives.” Judging from history, this must have taken place sometime during 1852-1870.
While it's possible that this occurred, searches for the quote only return The Ark File itself.
Danby Seymour, an Englishman, is also reported to have ascended the mountain with a small group of fellow Britishers in 1856[.]
According to Wikipedia, Henry Danby Seymour did make an expedition to Mount Ararat -- in 1846!
[O]ther repoorts reveal Major Stuart as leader of another expedition.
Indeed, Robert Stuart did explore Ararat in 1856. However, creationists conveniently forget to note that the expedition had five (not three!) members, went with Kurdish (rather than Armenian) guides, and was entirely unrelated to the Ark.
One may speculate that if there is a tiny kernel of truth in Yearam's story, it may indeed reflect some confused childhood memories of the presence of various European explorers in the Ararat area in the mid-1800s. A young boy with very little experience with "outsiders" would easily find them strange and threatening, and so they were cast as the villains in a fantasy about evil people wanting to destroy Noah's Ark. (A child might have trouble understanding why anyone would come all the way from Europe to explore Ararat except in connection with the fabled Ark.) A lifetime later, and well into his declining years, Yearam may well have been sincere when he fed his confabulations to Harold Williams.
“”Four things point uncannily to the possibility that the great ship still exists, frozen on a glacier high on Ararat. One is the Haji Yearam story, eloquent in its consistency.
The different stories contradict; perhaps they would be more consistent if they had a grounding in fact.
According to one, "several hundreds of years after the flood" the trail to the Ark had been washed out by a massive storm when some "enemies of God" had tried to get close to the Ark" and pilgrimages to the Ark had stopped entirely; according to others, Yearam's father had made regular pilgrimage to the Ark as a boy, which would have been impossible if the path was broken! Moreover, if God was willing to send a storm to attack these original Ark-destroyers, why did he not send another storm to prevent these three scientists?
One story states that Haji told his story to Williams and died in 1915; another states that he told his story in 1915 and died in 1918; others state that he died and told his story in 1920. While this is a minor error, the lack of fact-checking in this area does not bode well for fact-checking about, say, Noah's Ark.
One story states that the village elders, upon receiving the three scientists, decided that God had decided to share knowledge of the Ark with the world, and appointed Haji and his father to the task of guiding the three scientists; another states that the villagers thunderously protested the decision to accompany the atheists; the most-often repeated version of the story states that Yearam and his father did not tell anyone what they had "found". Yet in all versions of the story, the three scientists threaten their guides not to reveal the ark's location. None of this makes any sense when, according to creationists, the location of the Ark was already in common knowledge to the local Armenians! Ultimately, why would the scientists threaten two people when a whole village could reveal them?
“”I have a hard time understanding why Mr. Williams, [a pastor and] the son of a pastor himself, and Mrs. Williams, would have kept this information to themselves for so many years without at least trying to get it out, by telling others who might have then been interested in organizing a search of their own.
|—Richard Bright, Quest for Discovery: One Man's Epic Search for Noah's Ark|
Why did Williams wait until 1952 (a full 34 years after the 1918 scientist's confession) to relate such a story? Surely such a juicy, creation-fulfilling story would be worth sharing?
Yearam died in 1920 at age 88.[note 2] The scientist was supposedly much older than Yearam — if he was only a meagre 15 years older than Yearam (ie, about 30) at the time of the journey, and he died in 1918, he would have died at 103/97/90.[note 2] While it's possible that he could have lived this long, remembered the story in its entirety for 62/64 years,[note 3] and published a confession in the news, it seems unlikely.
“”It seems logical the three scientists, atheists or not, would have taken a scientific approach to what they discovered, or at least realized the evidence at hand. However, according to the story, they went into a satanic rage, and [....] went after the structure with an ax, and even tried to burn it. This information puts the story in serious doubt as far as it goes to this point. I have a tough time understanding how a scientist or anyone, would act this way.
|—Richard Bright, Quest for Discovery: One Man's Epic Search for Noah's Ark|
Why would three scientists who did not believe in the Bible — and who did not want the Ark to be found — go out on an expedition to find the Ark in the first place?
The Ark File (p. 104) describes the motivations of these vile, Bible-hating explorers like this:
They were atheists. They had organized an expedition at great sacrifice and expence for the specific purpose of exploring Greater Ararat to prove that there was no evidence that Noah's ark ever rested there.
These villainous atheists must have been fond of throwing money out the window. Even if they went over the whole mountain and found nothing, they would know that True Believers could simply retort that the Ark had rotted away over the millennia, or that it is buried in a glacier, or that the explorers simply failed to look in the right place (God hiding it from such unworthy eyes).
Add to that the fact that scientific expeditions per definition look in places where they expect or at least hope to find things. The suggestion that the expedition was to "prove that there was nothing there" is contrary to science, as the fact that no evidence for the Ark had been found equals proof that nothing is there (until the day that such proof be found and the idea needs revision). The supposed purpose of the expedition makes zero sense.
Yearam's story relies on a conspiracy theory in which a group of atheistic archaeologists purposefully destroyed evidence against their beliefs, while at the same time managed to locate the site of the Ark and obtain passage to it without attracting any attention. It's very strange that atheists, upon being presented with evidence of the global Flood, would remain atheist. Moreover, the three scientists are described in extremely harsh terms. This better fits Christian fundamentalist depictions of atheists as closed-minded, militant, and evil (along the lines of the atheist professor myth) than depictions of actual atheists, who often do change their views under the weight of evidence. This suggests that the story might just be a religious fabrication. Indeed, David Livingstone et al. note "the melodrama of Haji Yearam's tale", which seems out of character for a realistic assessment.
- Claim CH505.1: Yearam and the Ark, Talk Origins
- Claim N2141: Yearam guided three scientists to Noah's ark in 1916, Old Earth Ministries
- See the Wikipedia article on Searches for Noah%27s Ark § Unsubstantiated claims.
- "Haji" means "pilgrim", "Yearam" means "Jeremiah".
- Various other creationists claim that he was born between 1827-1845, depending on Yearam's supposed age, which is (according to creationists) either 88, 82, or 75, and death date, which given as is either 1920, 1918, or 1915.
- Depending on whether the journey was in 1856 or 1854.
- Noorbergen, Rene. The Ark File, p. 106. TEACH Services, Inc., 2004.
- LaHaye, Tim & Morris, John, 1976. The Ark on Ararat, Thomas Nelson Inc. and Creation Life Publishers, Nashville and New York, pp. 43-48:
It was an unusually hot summer [....] would be tortured and murdered.
- SkepticFiles.org, The following is from Bible Studies Magazine, published by Evangelical Ministries:
An elderly Armenian named Haji [....] to us in his story.
- "In Search of Noah's Ark" (Sun Classic Pictures, Copyright 1975):
What is thought to be [....] was true in every detail.
- Cummings, Violet M., "Noah's Ark: Fable or Fact?" (Family Library, New York, 1975, pp. 113-116.
- THE SEARCH FOR NOAH’S ARK (also at this URL):
The story of Haji Yearam [....] would be tortured and murdered.
- History of the search for Noah's Ark:
This is an unsubstantiated account [....] would be tortured and murdered.
- Noah’s ark on mount Ararat, shortened eyewitness accounts:
History told by Haji Yearam [....] no windows could be seen.
- Balsiger, David W. and Charles E. Sellier. "[Miraculous Messages: From Noah's Flood to the End Times", p. 202. Bridge Logos Foundation, 2008. ISBN 9780882704678.
- The Apocalypse Prophecies, p.106. Dorrance Publishing. ISBN 9781434919342.
- Livinstone, David N. Evangelicals and Science in Historical Perspective, p.250. Oxford University Press, USA, Mar 17, 1999. ISBN 9780195353969.
- Bright, Richard Carl. Quest for Discovery: One Man's Epic Search for Noah's Ark. New Leaf Publishing Group, Sep 1, 2001.
- Todeschi, Kevin. Rest of the Noah Story. Yazdan Publishing Company, Jun 1, 2012.
- Bailey, Lloyd, 1989. Noah: The Person and the Story in History and Tradition. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.