A Dutch carpenter inspired by a dream to build a massive replica of Noah’s Ark has a new and equally daunting vision – to bring the 410-foot vessel to the Americas in time for this summer’s Olympic Games in Brazil.
Johan Huibers’ impressive boat, built at a cost of nearly $4 million, is currently moored in Dordrecht, some 60 miles south of Amsterdam. A popular tourist attraction drawing as many as 3,000 visitors a day, the ark is an interactive museum and event center. Hauling it across the ocean in time to reach an international audience would cost an estimated $1.5 million, according to a California nonprofit recently established to help Huibers realize his latest dream.
“If we are able to purchase a barge, that will make taking it to every port in South and North America a very real possibility,” David Rivera, of The Ark of Noah Foundation, told FoxNews.com.
The group needs a miracle to achieve Huibers’ latest goal, as just under $1,800 has trickled in to date. But Huibers’s history of overcoming long odds is testament to his tenacity. His life’s work began with a dream, which he was later able to achieve after his contracting business made him a multimillionaire.
“[I hope] to see happy faces, explain the story of the Ark as a tool of God to give hope to mankind.”
– Johan Huibers
“In 1992 I had a dream about the Netherlands being underwater [due to] a flood,” Huibers, 57, told FoxNews.com. “A short time after, I saw a book and I read it to my children. It showed pictures of the Great Flood. I said then that I want to build the ark. Thirteen years later, I had the means and time to do it.”
At 410 feet long, 95 feet wide and 75 feet high, the ark is half the size of the specifications described in the Bible. It is made of cedar and pine and was built atop a steel barge in the river port of Schagen, some 30 miles north of Amsterdam. Since its completion, it has been towed by canal tugboats to Rotterdam and Arnhem, as well as to its current base.
Completing the 2,500-ton ark took more than four years, during which time Huibers and a crew that included random volunteers, his son and even the local butcher, often slept aboard the 95-foot-wide, 75-foot- high vessel. Given the time and money that went into building the ark, as well as its popularity, Rivera believes bringing it more than 5,200 miles to Brazil is a prophecy that can be fulfilled.
“The price point is actually low,” Rivera said optimistically. “It’s been reduced a bit because of falling oil prices.”
Rivera, an Air Force veteran and retired 3M executive, became involved with the effort to bring the ark to the Americas after visiting it in the Netherlands.
“I was just in awe of the size,” said Rivera, who worked with Huibers to establish the tax-deductible charity to raise funds. “The dimensions. The scale of it. I found it overwhelming, in a good sense.”
The to-date vastly underfunded plan would have the ark docked in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza for as long as four years, with trips penciled in to cities along the South American coast, through the Panama Canal and to U.S. cities along the West Coast.
“I hope that visitors will learn of true hope,” Huibers said. “[I hope] to see happy faces, explain the story of the Ark as a tool of God to give hope to mankind.”
Although the ark can hold up to 5,000 people, there are no live critters aboard, much less two of everything. But models of the animals the Bible says Noah saved from a devastating flood are part of the museum experience. If they can get it to Brazil, they hope to use proceeds from admissions to create more interactive exhibits, including ones that would feature hologram animals.
“Once in Fortaleza, we will make upgrades to allow visitors of seeing a Bible story come to life,” Rivera said.
Time is running out for Huibers and Rivera to raise the money needed to get the ark to Brazil by early August, when the Olympics begin. But as the foundation’s motto states, above a logo showing a sea of umbrellas opened against an epic downpour, “There is always hope.”
Perry Chiaramonte is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at@perrych