As believers in the literal truth of the Bible, they knew it was there.
Even so, the explorers who say they found seven large wooden compartments beneath snow and volcanic debris near the peak of Mount Ararat can be forgiven their excitement.
'It's not 100 per cent that it is Noah's Ark, but we think it is 99.9 per cent that this is it,' said Yeung Wing-cheung, a filmmaker working with the 15-strong team of fundamentalist Christians exploring the Turkish mountain.
This picture released by the evangelical group claims to show one of the explorers examining part of a structure which they claim might prove the existence of Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat. There are no external images of the site and the Hong Kong-based group refuse to say precisely where they made their discovery until the Turkish government designate it an archaeological site
The snow-capped peak of Mt. Ararat. The discovery is said to have been made 12,000ft up the mountain which lies in eastern Turkey
In the Bible, the story of Noah's Ark appears in chapters six to nine of the Book of Genesis.
It tells how God, spurred by the wickedness and corruption of man, vows to send a great cleansing flood. Deeming Noah to be the only righteous man worth saving, God commands him to build a vast ship, the ark - capable of saving himself, his family and a representation of the world's animals.
When Noah has completed his task, and God has sent 'two of every sort' of animal to the Ark, the flood waters rise until all mountains are covered and life (except fish) is destroyed. When the flood subsides, the animals leave the Ark and God vows to never again send a flood to destroy man. The story can also be found in the texts of Judaism and Islam. Although considered a historical event, most scholars and archaeologists do not believe in a literal interpretation of the Ark story. The vessel was said to measure '300 cubits, by 50 cubits, by 30 cubits', which translates to up to 515ft long, 86ft wide and 52ft high.
They said wood taken from the site, which is more than 13,000ft above sea level, dates to 2,800BC. If it is the ark, the discovery would be the greatest in the history of archaeology and bear out one of the most famous stories in the Bible.
The team of Turks and Chinese researchers from Noah's Ark Ministries International in Hong Kong say they made the discovery on Ararat - the biblical resting place of the ark - in October.
At a press conference yesterday to announce the discovery, another team member, Panda Lee, said: 'I saw a structure built with plank-like timber.
'Each plank was about eight inches wide. I could see tenons, proof of ancient construction predating the use of metal nails.
'We walked about 100 metres to another site. I could see broken wood fragments embedded in a glacier, and some 20 metres long.'
The structure had several compartments, some with wooden beams, the team said.
The wooden walls of one compartment were smooth and curved while the video shown by the explorers revealed doors, staircases and nails.
The team said the wood appeared to be cypress although, according to the Bible, the ark was built from gopher.
The group ruled out identifying the find as a human settlement, saying none had been found so high up in that area. They are keeping the exact location secret.
Four years ago and following a decade of research, U.S. national security analyst Porcher Taylor claimed a satellite image revealed a baffling 'anomaly' on the mountain's north-west corner that he believed to be the remains of the Ark.
But Mike Pitt, a British archaeologist, said the evangelical explorers had yet to produce compelling evidence.
He added: 'If there had been a flood capable of lifting a huge ship 4km up the side of a mountain 4,800 years ago, I think there would be substantial geological evidence for this flood around the world. And there isn't.'
Nicholas Purcell, a lecturer in ancient history at Oxford University, said the claims were the 'usual nonsense'. He added: 'If floodwaters covered Eurasia 12,000ft deep in 2,800BC, how did the complex societies of Egypt and Mesopotamia, already many centuries old, keep right on regardless?'
According to Genesis, the first book in the Old Testament, Noah was told to build the ark by God, who wanted to flood the world to punish sinners.
The story was widely seen as fact until the 19th century, when scientists began to question the evidence for a worldwide flood.
This photo, also put out by the evangelical group, is said to show part of a wall inside the structure found by the explorers. One of the team said: 'It's not 100 per cent that it is Noah's Ark but we think it is 99.9 per cent that this is it'
In 2006, U.S. national security analyst Porcher Taylor claimed this satellite image revealed a baffling 'anomaly' on the mountain's north-west corner that he believed to be the remains of the Ark
Wooden beams which the explorers said they found at the site. The search for the physical remains of Noah's Ark has held a fascination for Christians, Jews and Muslims for hundreds of years. But despite various claims no scientific evidence has ever been found