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This is not a duplicate of Building Noah's Ark or Can We Build Noah's ark?, because the former asks only about a relatively small number of species and the latter is set in Biblical times.

Ignoring financial problems, is "Noah's Ark" technically feasible with modern technology?

By Noah's Ark, I mean a ship which can sustain all Earth's extant air-breathing animals (which cannot survive in the sea for a year) in good health at sea for 1 year.

A few specifications:

  • I'm not necessarily implying a global flood. Let's just say the creators of this Ark just floated their boat on the ocean for a year just because.
  • However, no support from other craft or from land is allowed. They have to procure their own fresh water, bring their own food, dispose of their own waste etc.
  • As said, ignore the cost of such a boat, however enormous. Also, assume a workforce as large as you like, with all the modern shipbuilding technology you could ask for.
  • There needn't only be 1 pair of each animal. Parthogenetic creatures can be brought aboard by their lonesome, while eusocial species can ride in full colonies.
  • No extinct animals, land plants, fungi or microbes are going on board.
  • The ship can be as large as needed, and doesn't need to fit the length specified in the Bible.

Obviously, providing space for the hundreds of thousands of species will be a challenge, as will bringing enough food for the passengers. Our sailors will need to accquire drinking water, dispose of tonnes upon tonnes of waste, and prevent the spread of disease. How will they do it, and what will our modern Ark look like?

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  • $\begingroup$ Whales are air breathing animals... $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 12 at 11:56
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP Oops, edited to clarify. $\endgroup$ – SealBoi Jan 12 at 12:01
  • $\begingroup$ Is the requirement to have examples of each species, or a viable population of each species to repopulate the planet? $\endgroup$ – KerrAvon2055 Jan 12 at 21:33
  • $\begingroup$ Do you require that all the creatures already be alive, as opposed to embryos that can be deployed later? $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Jan 13 at 2:53
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No.

You'll need to recreate those animals' biomes if you wish them to be healthy. In the very least, even if you would confine them in tight cages, you would still need to get them in so many different settings of humidity, temperature, salinity etc. And all that adds weight.

At some point the square cube law will get you. You'll need more and more stuff that is denser than water. For example, the more weight you carry, the more engine power you'll need. Thus the ship will be less and less buoyant as you increase its designed size. You can, of course, make the whole thing buoyant again by making the ship bigger just to accomodate air, and fill entire compartments with helium. But then ypu'll need more engines again, and it'll be a race against diminishing returns.

It would be more efficient and feasible to build a fleet instead. Having ships in different places in the world also reduces the amount of weathet control and air conditioning you'll need.

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Of Course We Can

It all comes down to what you define as an "ark." A modern air craft carrier has about 5,000 crew. Strip out all the armaments, air planes, everything you don't need because you're not going to war and you have space for... what... 3,500 animals or 1,750 species plus caretakers, food supplies, and a remarkable number of shovels?1 Best of all, it's designed to be on the ocean for long periods of time. It even has desalination plants.

After that you simply get another air craft carrier — and you continue getting them until you've protected all the necessary species.

You could stop at this point and call it the Ark Armada. Or you could tie them all together so they become a single ship, not unlike a pontoon boat.

Frankly, there's only a problem if you insist on a single keel. That might be problematic. But the tech to carry all the world's animals (as described) for a year has existed for some time.

P.S., if you do insist on a single keel, then please treat this as a frame challenge. No engineer in his right mind would recommend trying to create an infinitely large boat. Why bother? It's more expensive, easier to break, impossible to dock. In other words, what I'm offering here is a practical solution to the problem.


1If you don't know why the shovels are important, you need to spend more time on a farm.

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If you mean with current technology, I'd think with no financial limit and everyone on earth agreeing to the cause and willing to contribute what they can, that we can indeed pull it off. What @Renan said is important though. The inbreeding that would occur after the year ends would destroy many species.

How about a more... metaphorical ark instead? Assuming future technology, you could get multiple genetic samples from each species, store the data and the tech you need to reproduce the animals afterwards and put them on a boat with the scientists. Solar power could be used to keep the computers running, and food and water for a couple of scientists shouldn't be too hard to store for a year.

I think you implied there wouldn't actually be a flood? In that case you could just have the data stored on hard drives (weatherproofed and properly stored of course) along with a few scientists. After the year ends they could go back to their lab on land and 'print out' the animals or form embryos using the genetic data they collected

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