Opening Day at Kentucky's Creationist Ark Encounter

Samantha Friend

Photographer Samantha Friend visited the Creation Museum's 510-foot long replica of Noah's Ark, complete with model dinosaurs.

This story appeared in the August issue of VICE magazine. Click HERE to subscribe.

The Ark Encounter is an 800-acre park in rural Kentucky with a 510-foot-long replica of Noah's Ark built to the exact dimensions described in Genesis 7:7. The park, a for-profit entity designed to spread creationism, serves as a sister attraction of the Creation Museum, just 40 miles away.

The park's founders call the boat "the largest timber frame structure in the world," and its size is striking—it could easily accommodate thousands of people. But on opening day, crowds were thin, and the ark itself was still incomplete. Cranes, cement, and other building supplies were all stored on the ark's far side. The entire site gave the impression of a room that had been cleaned five minutes before guests arrived. The animals inside were not live, as originally rumored, but models.

Some Kentuckians have wondered why a for-profit religious institution with discriminatory-hiring practices should qualify for state-backed tax breaks and rebates. Bill Nye, after touring the ark, complained that the park presents biblical stories as scientific fact, as it claims, among other things, that the Earth is 6,000 years old, not 4.5 billion. By this reckoning, dinosaurs and men would have coexisted, and thus the replica ark contains a number of model dinosaurs, representing those brought by Noah along with the rest of the animal kingdom. On opening day, photographer Samantha Friend visited the ark and documented it.

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