Noah's Ark could have floated even with two of every land animal in the world packed inside, scientists have calculated.
Although researchers are unsure if all the creatures could have squeezed into the huge vessel, they are confident it would have handled the weight of 70,000 animals without sinking.
A group of master's students from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Leicester University studied the exact dimensions of the Ark, set out in Genesis 6:13-22.
According to The Bible, God instructed Noah to build a boat that was 300 cubits long 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high - recommending that it be constructed from gopher wood. The students averaged out the Egyptian and Hebrew cubit measurement to come up with 18.98in, making the Ark around 472ft long - about 328ft shorter than the Navy's recently scrapped aircraft carrier Ark Royal.
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Using those dimensions, the Archimedes principle of buoyancy and the approximate weight of various animals, they were surprised to discover that the Ark could have floated.
Benjamin Jordan, 21, a student from Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, said: "Using the dimensions of the Ark and the density of the water, we were able to calculate its buoyancy force, which, according to Archimedes's principle, is equal to the weight of the volume of fluid the object displaces. This meant we were then able to estimate the total mass the Ark could support before the gravitational weight would overcome the buoyancy force, causing the Ark to sink."
Researchers are confident Noah's Ark would have handled the weight of 70,000 animals without sinking. Photo / Thinkstock
Previous research has suggested that there were approximately 35,000 species that would have needed to be saved from floodwaters, enabling the students to make the calculations. The students had to swap gopher wood for cypress wood, as biblical experts continue to speculate as to what gopher wood might be. Some think it may just mean prepared planks.
Thomas Morris, 22, from Chelmsford, Essex, said: "You don't think of the Bible necessarily as a scientifically accurate source of information, so I guess we were quite surprised when we discovered it would work. We're not proving that it's true, but the concept would definitely work."
The students presented their findings in a paper for the Journal of Physics Special Topics, a peer-reviewed student journal run by the University's Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Dr Mervyn Roy, the course tutor, said: "The students are encouraged to be imaginative with their topics, and find ways to apply basic physics to the weird, the wonderful and the everyday."