Okay, so we’ve established that the ark is not capable of supporting the entire animal population of the world, nor is it capable of holding all of the necessary food. Likewise, Noah’s family wouldn’t not have been able to feed and remove the waste of that many animals. So where does that leave us?
The flood still happened. The story says it happened, and it happened. But we have to consider the scope of it in its entirety. The scriptures quite clearly state that God would flood the world, but how big is that, exactly. We can give a modern, scientific answer, but Noah certainly did not have access to that information. The New World had yet to be discovered by the Vikings, much less Columbus, at this time. Certainly, in the Ancient Near East, Noah would not have considered those continents across the ocean as part of the world. It’s doubtful that Noah would know his world to be more than a few hundred miles from where he was born. Since this was even before the time of Moses, even Egypt was a far away place around 250 miles away. Noah probably would have heard of such places, but never knew of them.
When the flood waters came, the land of Canaan, where Noah was, was on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It would not take much for it to flood and blanket the entire area in water as far as the eye could see. Having been on sea passages, I can attest that it doesn’t take many miles of water to make it appear as if there is noting around.
The current of the Mediterranean would dominate what happened to the ark, seeing as it had no motors, and no mention made of any sails. At best it would probably have a steering oar or rudder, but with only 8 people on the ship, there is no way they could use oars to make any kind of real progress. This ark is designed purely to float. Therefore, the ark would be swept into the Med, where the current would take them straight up into Turkey, which is indeed what happened as the story mentions specifically Mount Ararat in Turkey.
What all of this means is that to Noah, it would indeed appear as if the entire world had been flooded, but he would have no way of knowing if this was actually the case. His entire world was flooded.
Does this mean that every place in the world is completely underwater? That is more complicated. For one, if it had, then the animals surely would have perished. We do know that the Nephilim, mentioned early in Genesis 6, had at least some survivors as David faced off against Goliath. Ararat is the tallest mountain in the area, so it could be that the flood was only to a certain point. God’s problem was only with humanity, so it also would make sense that only they would be His target. High places such as Ararat and other mountains might have been spared.
In an oblique way, these flood myths, by leaving the tops of mountains for humanity to flee to, makes the mountain tops into defacto holy ground since they were left specifically for these people to go to. Mountains have always been symbolic of sacred spaces throughout all mythology, as evidenced by Moses and the burning bush, Mt. Sinai, Mt. Olympus, and many many more across all mythology. These are the places not just where the gods dwell, but what the gods set aside for humanity to begin anew after the purging flood.
Okay, time for less heady stuff. Many have led expeditions into Turkey looking for the remnants of the ark, some even expecting to find the ark intact in a glacier or just parked on the side of the mountain. I don’t think that’s reasonable. I don’t think it decayed or was crushed by the glacial ice. I think that Noah’s family disassembled it and used it.
After the flood, good wood is in short supply. Moreover, this would has already been cut into boards, which are highly useful. There’s no reason for them to abandon the ark when they can disassemble it, fashion carts, and go on down the mountain to restart their lives. Ancient peoples are not known for their waste, and I just can’t see them leaving the ark behind when it would be so useful to restarting their future. They would build not only homes for themselves, but shelters and pens for the animals. Animals could provide the power to transport them by pulling carts, making their job easier. At the very least, the wood makes for excellent fuel to cook, keep them warm, and for forging of tools.