RUSSIA: Suspicion on the Mount

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And the Ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat. And the waters decreased continually . . .

On sober scientific grounds, many an archeologist is willing to concede the historical likelihood of the Flood, though its extent and location will long be argued.

Britain's tweedy Amateur Archeologist Egerton Sykes, onetime army intelligence officer, is willing to take the Bible's word at face value. For years he has longed to investigate Mt. Ararat, the 16,946-ft. peak which straddles Turkey and Persia at the border of Soviet Armenia. Recently he announced his intention of leading an expedition there in June. Dean Aaron J. Smith of North Carolina's People's Bible College, another enthusiastic amateur, said he would go along. "It's not necessarily the Ark we hope to find," explained Sykes, "but any ship up there that can be keyed in with the dates of the biblical deluge will give more credence to the Old Testament, and I should be happy to do that."

The alert editors of Moscow's Pravda, however, were not to be taken in by any such fairy tale. Historical materialism does not recognize Genesis; no less an authority than the Big Soviet Encyclopedia calls the story of the flood a "myth" which "up until .the 19th Century had done great harm to the sciences." Snorted Pravda last week: "It is quite enough to look at a map to understand the real meaning of the biblical amusements of these Anglo-American imperialists. The true purposes of such an expedition are as far from archeology as Sykes is from great-grandfather Noah." In London, 54-year-old Archeologist Sykes scratched his white mane in wonder.

"Anyone," he said, "who thinks I'm going to climb that mountain and sit on top amid the ice and snow spying on Russia through a telescope, must be insane. Besides," he added wistfully, "if the secret service were behind me, I wouldn't have so much trouble raising money."