Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
Holt Condren is an explorer and entrepreneur based in Maumelle, the founder of Ink Custom Tees and the author of "Surf the Woods: The Ordinary Man's Trail Map to the Extraordinary Life." He's also featured in a new documentary, "Finding Noah," which follows a team of archeologists and theologians to Mount Ararat, in Turkey, on a search for Noah's Ark. The film will premiere with a multicity one-night-only screening at 7 p.m. Oct. 8. In Central Arkansas, you can see the film at Breckenridge Village and Colonel Glenn 18 in Little Rock, Conway Cypress Point, and Central City 10 in Hot Springs.
How did you get involved in the search for Noah's Ark?
In 2007 I got drawn into the search after watching another documentary. Having been an adventurer and an outdoorsman, it sounded like a great thing to be a part of. I started learning about the search for the ark, learned who the players were, what was being done to document the scientific evidence. I found out there was a team trying to do scientific research on Mount Ararat, in Turkey, using ground-penetrating radar and satellite technology to look under the icecap. I started making phone calls until I found the man leading this particular expedition.
Mount Ararat is a real dangerous part of our world. It's in northeast Turkey, the foothills going into Iran on the eastern side. A few hours south of Ararat is Syria, it's really a dangerous area. Turkey had kept the mountain off limits to major expeditions, but in 2009 they allowed our team in. I had gotten involved in mountaineering, and the team needed someone with mountaineering skills to probe the crevasses and make sure the team was safe in the area, so that's how I fit into it all.
How did the expedition go?
I've now summited Ararat 11 times, spent over 100 days on the mountain, once for 30 days at a time in subzero temperatures, freezing, thin air, without food. The film depicts this really well. The Kurdish Militia Forces, an organization the U.S. classifies as a terrorist organization, was involved — we've had to deal with them every year. It was a combination of ordinary guys doing extraordinary things and this epic idea of a mountain taller than any mountain in the Lower 48. It's been a blast.
Are you disappointed not to have found the ark?
Who says we haven't?
I just figured I would have heard about it on the news or something.
I have to be careful about saying what we have or haven't found, but I'm not disappointed with any part of it. It's been a wonderful experience, and I think we've answered some questions. Not everyone on our team believes in the ark, it's not just a team of Christians. We were taking a scientific approach.
What do you say to people who doubt the ark ever existed?
I guess I'd say it takes faith to believe one way or another. It takes faith, in my mind, to believe that it never existed, just like it takes faith to believe it does. My personal belief is that it did, and there is evidence to support the fact that there was a worldwide flood.
Just to play devil's advocate: A lot of people interpret that story allegorically. There were millions of species, you know? How do you reconcile that? Doesn't it seem kind of wild?
I don't know if every species was on the ark or not. I don't like to hear from Christians who naively go into it and say we shouldn't even look for scientific evidence for biblical things. There's been a lot of people over the years who said we shouldn't worry about looking for it, we should just take that with a childlike faith that it was there. I think, no, let's go out there and try to do it scientifically. I don't have the evidence — I'm not holding a piece of wood in my hand. I don't get into arguments about it.
But you can't tell us whether or not you found it?
You have to come see the film. I think you'll be surprised.
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