Las Vegans join in search for biblical truth

      With explorer Robert Ballard, a father and son find evidence of a great flood

      For centuries, explorers have been looking for evidence to support the
      biblical story of Noah's Ark and the great flood.

      Last month, Las Vegas attorney Joe Brown and his son, Jeff, had a chance
      to experience the thrill of that search.

      From Sept. 7 to 11, the Browns were on board a research vessel captained
      by Robert Ballard, the man who co-discovered the Titanic at the bottom of
      the North Atlantic in 1985. On the morning of Sept. 9, the father and son
      watched in amazement as a team of scientists completed Ballard's latest
      exploratory feat -- the uncovering of remnants of an ancient residence and
      tools 311 feet below the surface of the Black Sea, off the coast of Turkey.

      That discovery is significant, National Geographic reports, because it
      supports the theory that a massive flood of seawater rolled into the Black
      Sea from the Mediterranean Sea more than 7,000 years ago. Such an event
      could also be the basis for the mystical biblical flood described in Genesis.

      "The most amazing thing is that a story handed down roughly 7,500 years
      ago appears to be true," Joe Brown said Wednesday from his office at the
      law firm of Jones & Vargas.

      Brown said the events that culminated with the trip started simply enough
      nearly five years ago with a chance meeting. Joe Brown said he met Ballard
      at a seminar in California, and the two immediately struck up a friendship.

      "In the mornings, we would go on two-, three-mile hikes, and he would tell
      me about finding the Titanic and all these other stories," Joe Brown said. "I
      was like a little kid, saying, 'Tell me another one!' "

      The two stayed in touch, and Ballard eventually offered Joe Brown a
      chance to look for evidence of the great flood. To go on the trip, Joe Brown
      would make a donation to Ballard's nonprofit Institute for Exploration. In
      exchange, the Browns would spend four days on the Black Sea with

      It was Ballard's second trip to the region in two years. After the first, he told
      National Geographic that evidence showed such a massive flood wouldn't
      have lasted 40 days, but closer to 40 years.

      But there were no guarantees of any discoveries, much less excitement. Joe
      and Jeff Brown said in preparing for the trip, they braced themselves for the
      possibility that they would be a witness to nothing.

      On the first day aboard Ballard's rented research vessel, the Northern
      Horizon, nothing is exactly what happened. Because of mechanical
      problems with Ballard's remote controlled imaging vehicles, Little Hercules
      and Argus, the Browns spent the entire day watching scientists fix the
      vehicles that scavenge the bottom of the sea with cameras.

      "The first day was extremely boring, a waste of time," Jeff Brown said. "It
      was a lot of sitting around, watching them work on these devices."

      The next 36 hours, however, made up for the wait.

      Late at night on Sept. 8, Joe Brown said he was sleeping in his ship bunk
      when he awoke and felt the urge to check on the exploration's progress in
      the ship's control room.

      "I couldn't go back to sleep because I just had this feeling that something
      was happening," he said.

      He was right. Within the hour, Joe and Jeff Brown watched on a grainy
      television screen in the control room as the Little Hercules broadcast images
      of the sea's bottom. Soon, the Browns were able to make out some shady
      images on the television screen. One of the scientists on board yelled "It's a

      It was, in fact, a log that Ballard believes is from a collapsed "wattle and
      daub" building. Also observed at the bottom of the sea in the same vicinity
      were pieces of ceramic and a handful of stone tools.

      "At that point there was a lot of excitement in that room," Jeff Brown said.
      "It was like watching an artist painting a picture -- you didn't know exactly
      what you were seeing until the very last minute."

      According to National Geographic, the expedition's chief archeologist, Dr.
      Fredrik Hiebert, identified several rounded, oval-shaped implements at the
      site as highly polished stone, each drilled with circular holes. Also found was
      a chisel or ax head of worked or pecked stone.

      Joe Brown said to prove his theory that the flood occurred about 7,000
      years ago, Ballard wants to pull a sample of the items up for radiocarbon
      dating. Ballard doesn't have permission yet from the Turkish government for
      such a retrieval, but the group is planning further searches for more evidence
      of civilization.

      Joe Brown said Ballard even talked on the boat of an expedition searching
      for Noah's Ark, which Ballard concedes would be a risky, high-odds

      "He was saying that among the fundamentalists, this discovery will be huge,"
      Joe Brown said.

      Jeff Brown said Ballard told him that his latest discovery "might finally put
      the story of the Titanic behind him."

      After returning to Las Vegas, Joe Brown and his son said they have spent a
      lot of hours contemplating the significance of what they saw. The realization
      that they observed proof of a great flood from the Mediterranean is an
      awesome one, but the idea that the father and son may have also witnessed
      validation of one of the most famous stories of the Bible at times can be

      "We were there to see a piece of history," Joe Brown said. "Jeff can tell his
      grandkids about this, that he was there when they read about it in their

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