Fresh on the heels of the cliffhanger "Everest," another mountain-climbing adventure movie debuts this week in theaters across the country. This one takes audiences to the tallest mountain in the country of Turkey, where many people believe Noah's Ark came to rest following the global flood described in the Bible. A Sioux Falls man will be paying close attention to the documentary titled "Finding Noah," since he's been an ark-hunter himself for many years.
Tracking down Noah's Ark is a tall order, in the rarified elevation of 17,000 feet. A film crew followed these explorers up to the treacherous summit of Mt. Ararat, seeking clues in the snow-packed peak to the most coveted and elusive artifact of all time.
"When you're there, you know it was there. I can just tell. Your hair stands up. It's a holy place," Mike Holt said.
Holt is a kindred spirit to those adventurers who have scaled Ararat in search of Noah's Ark. Holt has made more than a dozen trips to the mountain since 1998. He personally knows some of the ark researchers featured in the movie.
"It's like one big community and ark researchers have talked on the Internet and over the phone for dozens of years so it's a pretty broad family," Holt said.
Holt says the climbing party hit the cinematic sweet spot in order to get the film project off the ground.
"Everything fell into place for them. They got the funding and they got the permission. And nine times out of ten, you get one or you don't get the other," Holt said
The Turkish army rarely grants permission to climbers since the mountain towers over a troubled part of the world.
"Because Ararat basically sits in a military zone. It sits on the border of Turkey and Armenia and Iran, so it's a pretty intense place," Holt said.
Holt hopes to return to Ararat as soon as next year, if not for the Ark, then for the children he helps support through his foundation Mission Noah.
"For me, God used the ark to get me there to realize that children need help and so the ark was the carrot but now we do humanitarian work. We work with children, so 90-percent of what we do is humanitarian," Holt said.
Ararat has yielded some tantalizing clues that have intrigued researchers through the decades, but they've all led to dead ends. Skeptics doubt the ark ever existed. But Holt is keeping the faith.
"I know the ark was there at one time. Truthfully, I don't know if anything remains; if they could have been ground up in the glaciers over the thousands of years, there is that possibility," Holt said.
Spoiler alert: "Finding Noah" doesn't live up to its title. The crew didn't discover the ark they were seeking. But Holt isn't discouraged. At least future expeditions will know where not to look.
"Through a process of elimination, there are not many places it could be and with this group, they have done an incredible job of scientific research on the top of the mountain with ground-penetrating radar, scanning glaciers," Holt said.
And like every good adventure story, the journey itself, with all its hardships and challenges, can be its own reward, even if in the end the heroes miss the boat.
"Finding Noah" plays Thursday night for one show only at 7:00 p.m. at the Century East at Dawley Farm and the Century Stadium 14 theaters in Sioux Falls.