DORDRECHT, Netherlands -- Just as the first storms of winter roll in, Dutchman Johan Huibers has finished his 20-year quest to build a full-scale, functioning model of Noah's ark -- an undertaking of biblical proportions.
Huibers, a Christian, used the biblical book of Genesis, chapters six to nine, as his inspiration, following the instructions God gives Noah down to the last cubit.
Translating to modern measurements, Huibers came up with a vessel that works out to a whopping 130 metres long, 29 metres across and 23 metres high. Perhaps not big enough to fit every species on Earth, two by two, as described in the Bible, but plenty of space for a pair elephants to dance a tango, for instance.
Johan's ark towers across the flat Dutch landscape and is easily visible from a nearby highway where it lies moored in the city of Dordrecht, just south of Rotterdam.
Gazing across the ark's main hold, a huge space of stalls supported by a forest of pine trees, visitors gaze upon an array of stuffed and plastic animals such as buffalo, zebra, gorillas, lions, tigers, bears -- you name it. Elsewhere on the ark is a petting zoo with live animals that are less dangerous or easier to care for, such as ponies, dogs, sheep, and rabbits, and an impressive aviary of exotic birds.
For Huibers, a builder by trade, it all began with a nightmare he had in 1992, when the low-lying Netherlands was flooded, as it has been many times in its history.
Huibers thinks new floods are possible, not least due to global warming. He cites a New Testament passage prophesying that "the cities of the coast shall tremble" near the end of times.
But he's not worried the whole Earth will ever be flooded again. In the Bible, the rainbow is God's promise it won't be.
"I had a call from American television," he says, laughing. "This has nothing to do with the end of the Mayan calendar," he said.
He said his motivation is ultimately religious, though. He wants to make people think what their purpose is on Earth.
"I want to make people question that so that they go looking for answers" and ultimately find salvation through God and eternal life, he said.
-- The Associated Press