The starting point for my research on The Weather Forecast was an interview with Johan Huibers, a contractor and carpenter from the Netherlands who decided to build an ark just like Noah’s. Up until January 2016, the ark was moored in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, and was open for visitors there.
“When I built my first ark in 2007, I was restricted by the specific dimensions that allow safe passage on the Dutch inland waterways. The ark had to fit under the Hollandse Brug and Stichtse Brug, two thirteen meter high bridges. It forced me to make the ark’s ridge straight, which I never really liked.
Soon after I wanted to build a second one, but I needed permission from my wife, Bianca. She didn’t find the first one very special to begin with.
When we arrived in Sliedrecht with the first ark, the mayor said, “You can build your big ark here.” But how should I tell Bianca, I wondered. Then, on Wednesday, a real estate agent phoned me and told me that he came across some big metal containers for sale, that I could use to build my ark. But how should I tell Bianca? Within the same week, on Friday, the Rabobank phoned me: “There is so much money in your account. You had 650,000 visitors on the small ark, who all paid five Euros. What are we going to do with the money? Should we buy stocks with it?” That was when I realised it was a sign from God, telling me that I had to start building the large ark.
So I bought a big flower bouquet. In the evening, when Bianca and I were sitting on the couch, drinking tea, I got up and brought the bouquet from the pantry. “What do you want from me?”, she asked. “Nothing”, I replied, “I just love you”. “No, you want something from me”, she persisted. Then I admitted: “I want to build a giant Noah’s Ark.” “Okay", Bianca said," but only if you build it the way Bart Smit (a Dutch toy store chain) builds its toys.” Based on the real Noah’s Ark, she meant, build to match.
There is only one model of Noah’s Ark; the one in the Sistine Chapel in Rome. The ceiling there is filled with the images that Michelangelo painted, such as the Finger of God. But the subject of four out of the ceiling’s seven paintings are Noah’s Ark. I still get goose bumps, because Michelangelo painted his own vision, on his back, 300 years after Christ. That is what the original ark must have looked like. And there aren’t really any older images. So I built it after that model."
Johan Huibers is a true believer, who doesn’t concern himself with any interpretations or allegoric meanings, but even though he is unaware of it, he is part of the visual tradition.
The creation of his ark was meant to help spread the Gospel, to bring salvation to the people, like the original ark brought salvation to Noah and mankind.
This is his official reason, but during the interview, he turned out to have an additional, more practical motive:
“It’s a lifeboat. And we will need it again soon, because there are eleven crucial points in the Dutch dikes that are being neglected. The money is there, but the contractors no longer want to do it. Rijkswaterstaat, the Dutch Ministery of Infrastructure and Water Management, wants them to do the job first and then pay them later. They used to pay per term for the maintenance that was being done. And I don’t trust the Afsluitdijk (the longest dam in the Netherlands), not one bit.
(…) I am a bit afraid of this. We won’t expect it from the place where it will start. And when the Afsluitdijk goes, we all go.”
The big ark was moved to Krimpen aan de IJssel in 2016. Johan Huibers wanted to send the ark on a worldwide voyage, but at the time of writing (2021), had not yet managed to obtain funds to do so. The first, smaller ark was purchased by another foundation and is currently moored in Ipswitch (England) as a floating museum called De VerhalenArk (The Stories Ark).