The key to understanding the relief or topography of the area flooded is Noah's extreme reluctance to leave the ark. He does not leave the ark when he sees the tops of surrounding hills. He does not even leave 40 days later but instead experiments with the crow and the dove. When the dove flies away never to return Noah waits a further 36 days before breaking through the roof to discover that the flood has finally dried up. He still does not leave the ark but waits another 56 days for the flood deposits to dry out. As far as I know Noah's remarkable caution about venturing from his refuge has never been used to interpret the relief of the area the ark came to rest in. It certainly wasn't a mountainous area.

First of all it was pretty important that the ark came to rest horizontally! Extensive horizontal surfaces are not easily found in the young fold mountain region of Armenia - the traditional location of Mt Ararat.

The windows in the ark must have been arranged so that Noah could view distant hills without being able to see the ground upon which the boat rested. The boat was a very tall structure. The windows were either in the roof or just below it. This restricted Noah's angle of vision. He could only see a few degrees above and below the horizontal. He was able to sight distant hills but he could not see down acutely enough to observe the land around the ark for a distance of several hundreds of metres. It was only after Noah climbed out onto the roof that he could be certain that all the flood water had dried up. Of course if the ark had come to rest at an angle he would not have had the same difficulties. He could have seen down in at least one direction.

If the ark had come to rest in genuinely mountainous terrain with peaks at different levels he would have had little difficulty in judging when the water level was below the base of the ark. However if the boat grounded in a flat region of very low relief, where the height of the vessel was as high as the surrounding hills, he would have experienced very great difficulty judging the level the boat stood on relative to those hills. If Noah was unsure of the height of the ground the ark came to rest upon relative to the height of the surrounding hills he would also be very uncertain about the depth of the water around the ark as the flood receded.

Noah's experiment with the crow and dove reveals both ornithology and environmental awareness. Carrion crows are quite at home on mud flats whereas doves are a woodland species. The failure of the crow to return indicated that there was plenty of mud deposited on treeless high terraces. When the dove returned with an olive leaf it showed that trees were just poking above the waters. The failure of the dove to return showed that a woodland canopy had emerged but Noah realised that there was still likely to be standing floodwater and so he waited another 36 days before he took a proper look himself.

Additional evidence for the topography of the area the flood affected, shown in the cross-section, is the sudden change in conditions in the short space of 14 days between the first and third release of the dove. In this time the flood level only dropped a few metres but the environment altered dramatically. This can only happen in an area dominated by flat surfaces.

Finally there was a layer of silt deposited around Noah's craft. This only dried out two months after Noah made his observations from the roof of the ark. It is as well he made his observations from this vantage point. If he had opened the door inward liquid mud might have flowed in! Silt would not have accumulated on sloping land.

All the detail in the account demonstrates that the flood took place over a flat plain diversified by low terraces. This is highly realistic relief for areas subject to devastating floods.