This city’s three billionaire Kwok brothers have just the answer for the rising waters threatening the global economy: the world’s first life-size replica of Noah’s ark, built to biblical specifications off the coast of this recession-struck Chinese financial center.
The message in its 450-foot-long hull, its rooftop luxury hotel and 67 pairs of fiberglass animals: “The financial tsunami will be over,” says Spencer Lu, the Kwoks’ project director at Noah’s Ark, which is opening soon.
The land-bound ark wasn’t built in response to the current global turmoil; it has been in the planning for 17 years. But the financial storm provides a nice marketing hook for the Kwoks’ ambitious project, which will probably need to lure visitors from beyond Hong Kong’s city limits to be an economic success
It also ups the ante in the competition to build a big ark. Middle brother and ark champion Thomas Kwok insisted that it be constructed according to biblical specs, in part to distinguish it from one in the Netherlands that actually floats and boasts real farm animals but is just one-fifth the size of the biblical original.
Minders of the Dutch ark say they were in touch with the Hong Kong team and don’t see it as competition. “We stand for the same goal as far as I can tell,” said Jacky Baken, a 35-year-old gardener who quit her business to work full time on the ark. She says the group is at work on a full-size water-going version. And, she says, “We’re still the first one with the floating ark.”
These are just the latest additions to a veritable ark armada built around the world by the devout and the merely driven — from a 300-foot-long ark built by a pastor in the Canadian town of Florenceville, New Brunswick, to one built by Greenpeace in 2007 on Turkey’s Mount Ararat, warning of “impending climate disaster.”