Launching A Ship
One of the most critical parts of shipbuilding is a plan to get the newly completed ship safely off its solid foundation and into the water and floating freely. In Noah’s case, he could count on rising water to lift his ship off its foundation. If perfectly calm rising water could be expected, launching the ship was a simple matter. It would self-launch. If there were modest waves, safely launching the ship is another story. While seas were likely calm during the flood event, there were waves of at least a few feet. If not planned for at launch, minimal waves of even less than a few feet could destroy the ship. Noah anticipated the waves. To safely launch, he tightly tied the largest foundation stones to his ship for temporary ballast as in Figure 3c.
The ballast, of Figure 3c, was necessary to keep the ship from surging and shifting on the foundation stones due to small waves as the water level increased during the flood. Holes would have been punched through the ship’s bottom had the ship surged or shifted on the stones. The temporary ballast worked by making the ship draw more water. After water depth increased sufficiently, Noah could feel his ship moving. Once moving, the stones were released eliminating the ballast and allowing the ship to “pop up” and float safely above the stone foundation.
Noah may have devised a simple means of releasing all the ballast stones simultaneously when waters reached a safe level. However, the simultaneous release of the stones may not have been essential. The stones could have been safely released one at a time beginning at either end. Then, the stones may have remained loosely attached as anchors holding the ship in the general area of the shipyard until Noah was satisfied his ship could safely float free and above local hills.
Noah’s launching considerations are not at all a stretch of the imagination. As he constructed the ship, he would have noticed that the blocking and wedging on top of each foundation stone (Figure 3c.) could easily punch through the ship’s hull. He would have had a strong sense of the fragile nature of his ship’s hull relative to the ship’s weight. He would have had serious concerns about his ship shifting on, or bouncing on its foundation due to small waves. In addition, after floating free of the foundation, he would have been concerned about wind blowing the ship into a hill- this raises a question.
Why would Noah allow his ship to drift freely after water levels increased to a safe level? Why did he not attempt to stay anchored up at his shipyard site? This is a puzzling part of the story but he may not have realized that the water levels would ever subside. He did not likely know how deep the flood would be and may have felt that drifting would eventually land him on dry ground. After all, he had been told to build a floating ship. It is also possible his immediate concern after his safe launch was to drift clear of the foundation stones. In addition, it is possible that he did attempt to stay loosely anchored at his shipyard but the ropes eventually parted.
As the ship lifted away from the stone array of Figure 3b, the stones would have been scattered around and any semblance of orderly arrangement lost- especially if they were released a few at a time. They would have been in complete disarray and many of them broken.
The added temporary ballast as described was essential to the safe launch of Noah’s ship. It is completely reasonable to think he anticipated its necessity. Stones of this type and quantity have been found at a site in Armenia (described later).
It is suggested by some that in ancient times stones tied permanently to a boat or ship and dangling in the water were for stability. Actually, stones dangling from deck tied ropes would contribute to a boat’s capsize in moderate to heavy seas. A calm water stability gain is deceptive. As a boat rolls side to side in a sea, deck tied stones in the direction of the roll become further away from the ship’s center of buoyancy, which contributes to the rolling forces. In addition, in a head on sea, “ballast stones” or “drogue stones” would cause a ship to swamp or break up and would only contribute to its demise. There is a problem of practicality with dangling stones- traveling using sail power, or any sort of power, would have been unnecessarily slow. It is unreasonable to expect that stones were ever used for stability.
If dangling stones were used by the ancients for stability, it would account for the many “ballast” stones found in the seas since their boats would have quickly sunk in even moderate weather. The abundance of stones with rope holes near their tops found in the ancient world’s waters may actually indicate how the ancients docked their boats while in port. They likely maneuvered their boats into the shallows and tied off to one or more stones. After tying off for the day, they waded ashore. This is a valid use for a large stone with a rope hole near its top. Because of surf, stones would slowly make their way into deeper water.
A large stone designed to hang by a rope would, by necessity, have its hole near its center of mass. If the rope hole were near the stone’s top, the top would simply break off. A large stone’s top weakened by a rope hole would not normally be strong enough to support the stone‘s weight.
The rope tied stones were added temporary ballast and possibly a few were retained as anchors on Noah‘s ship. It is also possible a few stones were left dangling to slow the ships motion as it approached an impending collision with an embankment- but none was for stability.