COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. An adventurer captured the world's attention this summer after discovering what he says could be Noah's Ark.
Whether it proves to be the ark the Bible says rode out the great flood, Bob Cornuke says the real rewards of his discovery are spiritual.
"I guess what my wife says my business is, we sell hope. Hope that it could be true, hope that there is a God," Cornuke said.
Cornuke runs the Bible Archaeology Search and Exploration Institute from his Woodmoor, Colo., home. For two decades, he has traveled the globe searching for historical sites noted in the Bible.
Cornuke made international news this summer after an expedition to an Iranian mountain revealed a rock formation that looks like the end of a boat made of wood planks. Cornuke said it could be Noah's Ark, and the story spread like wildfire.
"They heard it on the wires. It's been kind of a crazy thing," Cornuke said. "It's really touched the imagination of planet Earth."
Cornuke moved to Colorado Springs in 1978 after working for the Costa Mesa, Calif., police force. He wanted a quieter life and settled into the real estate business.
Here, he met Col. Jim Irwin, a retired astronaut and the eighth man to walk on the moon. Irwin wanted to find Noah's Ark, and Cornuke came to share his passion.
"I went with Jim in 1986, and that kind of got me hooked," he said.
For a decade, Cornuke searched for Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat in Turkey, a traditional spot for ark enthusiasts.
"After about 10 years of research on that mountain, we kind of said, 'Wait a second, are we sure this is the mountain?' " Cornuke said.
Further study of the Bible and accounts from ancient historians convinced Cornuke that Iran was a more likely location. So in the late '90s, Cornuke traveled to Iran alone, hired a driver and a translator and scoured the country's Zagros and Elborz mountain ranges.
"I did over 500 interviews asking people, had they heard legends of Noah's Ark," Cornuke said.
Cornuke said he ultimately followed the 50-year-old path of Ed Davis, an American engineer stationed in Iran in 1943.
"Ed Davis was taken up (into the mountains) and shown this object. He got about a mile away, and he saw this object in a snowstorm, and he was told it was Noah's Ark," Cornuke said. "And then he drew me a map."
Cornuke took the map to Ed Holroyd, a Denver scientist and creationist. Holroyd pointed Cornuke to Mount Suleiman, and in 2005, a four-man BASE Institute group hiked up the peak and found the formation.
They returned in June of this year to take more samples, which they've delivered to scientists in New York for analysis, Cornuke said.
Colorado Springs attorney Doug Scherling accompanied Cornuke both years. He remembers the moment he saw the famous rock formation.
"It almost looked like cut wood, but obviously rock, so you're thinking this could have been a petrified log," Scherling said.
This year, a larger group went along, and they brought back more rock samples.
"This year I think the results have been a lot more promising," Scherling said.
Bob Cornuke doesn't have a degree in archaeology; he holds a doctorate in Bible and theology from Louisiana Baptist University. He says the skills he learned as a crime scene investigator in California aid his expeditions.
"I learned investigative skills, and I now use those same investigative skills in researching the Bible," Cornuke said. "We also use the Bible as a road map and a compass. We use it as a historical guide."
He says he can't say definitively whether or not this is Noah's Ark.
"I think we've found something that deserves a lot more research. It has a distinct possibility that it could be something like the ark," Cornuke said.
Skeptics disagree. Some geologists say the formation isn't petrified wood, just ordinary rock. Other organizations claim they've already found the ark in Turkey. Many say the ark is just a myth and doesn't exist.1 comment on this story
But Cornuke has searched for other biblical sites, too.
Over the years, Cornuke's 29 expeditions have taken him to Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Israel and Egypt. He's searched for Mount Sinai and the shipwreck of St. Paul. He's filled the pages of three passports with stamps.
Cornuke's faith in God keeps him going, he said.
"The reason this is huge news, is that people were confronted with the 'what if' what if this is true? What if this is Noah's Ark, what does that mean? Man, I have to accept the whole Bible," Cornuke said.