Derived from a Latin word for "chest" (see also the Ark of the Covenant), an ark is now best known as a vessel (usually a boat, or at least boat-shaped) in which people seek sanctuary from some great cataclysm.
This doesn't necessarily mean the people go by themselves. If they're smart, they'll bring flora and fauna with them. And if they're pressed for time or resources, they may not go bodily: The ark may simply contain the distilled knowledge and culture of the civilization, and maybe some of their DNA, in the hope that they will be reconstructed or at least remembered by someone else.
In this case, the Voyager
spacecraft, which possess detailed descriptions of Earth and its people, could be considered arks — except that we didn't build them under the imminent threat of our own destruction.
The concept of the ark owes most of its form
to the biblical
story of Noah's Ark (which is itself suspiciously similar to even earlier stories
like The Epic of Gilgamesh
). Most iterations of the ark today either directly identify with or at least reference the Noah story, including such elements as: The Great Flood
; the ark builder being divinely inspired to prepare for the flood, and mocked by his neighbors who don't know the cataclysm is coming; the ark housing pairs of animals, implied to be all the animal species in the world, who enter and reside therein compliantly without eating each other; and, the ark builder sending a dove or other bird to search for dry land to signify that the Flood is ended.
The original Ark still crops up from time to time, usually as a Public Domain Artifact
for the characters to hunt down. But new arks are just as common, and these days seem to be as likely spaceships as oceangoing vessels
, with the cataclysm necessitating their construction being a supernova or similarly world-destroying event. Any structure which bears the last remnants
of an alien race is likely an ark.
Sister trope to Colony Ship
. Compare Generation Ships
and Fling a Light into the Future
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Anime and Manga
- In the first season of Dragon Ball GT, Bulma just happens to have one of these tucked away beneath the Capsule Corporation in order to evacuate everyone to the new planet created by Baby with the Blackstar balls.
- Considering the number of times Earth has been nearly (or actually) destroyed in this franchise, that might be more reasonable than it sounds.
- The Spriggan film/Noah's Ark story in the manga centers on the original Ark and various organizations fighting to control it in Turkey.
- In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, the Arc-Gurren is used to house the population of Kamina City in space when the moon is on a collision course with earth.
- Doraemon: Nobita sees the vision of a flood via one of Doraemon's "peek into the future" devices, and builds an ark accordingly; turns out that was a bedwetting dream Nobita had.
- Fishman Island in One Piece has a gigantic ark named 'Noah' in the slums.
- The seed ships from Knights Of Sidonia were intended to ensure humanity's survival when Earth was destroyed by the Gauna.
- In the backstory of Trigun, there was Project SEEDs, a series of generation-ships, with most of its occupants in cold sleep while it searched for another habitable planet.
- The ship that originally brought Superman to earth, along with a database containing the history and culture of Krypton. His father Jor-El wanted to make ships big enough to save all of Krypton's people, but Krypton's xenophobic policies banning space travel got in his way. He only had enough time and resources to build one little ship.
- Crops up in XXXenophile, of all places. In "Family Reunion", salvalger Otis discovers the U.N.S.S. Rojong, the first colonization slowship from Old Terra, presumed lost in space. The bio-pods are intact and should contain all of the 'lost' animals: elephants, fireflies, anteaters, unicorns...
- One story in the Mickey Mouse Comic Universe had a Mad Scientist build a space ark to repopulate the Earth (or another planet) after he destroys the Ozone layer.
- Nero: Nero builds one in the album "The Ark Of Nero", but it turns out it was It Was All A Dream.
Film - Animated
- Cats Don't Dance: The basis of the movie-within-a-movie, "Li'l Ark Angel".
- Ice Age The Meltdown: All the herds head for a giant log that would serve as a boat when the flood waters come.
- Fantasia 2000 contains a retelling of the Biblical story set to Pomp and Circumstance by Sir Edward Elgar, with Donald Duck as Noah's assistant.
- An example occurs in Battle for Terra. No points for guessing what is the name of the gigantic ship housing the humanity.
- The eponymous Titan in Titan A.E., a ship holding the DNA of all known Earth organisms and the capacity to recreate the planet from scratch.
- In WALL•E humanity abandons a ruined Earth in a fleet of spaceships. The Axiom is sending out probes - such as EVE - to find viable life on Earth but the "ark" takes on a mind of its own and tries to prevent a return.
- El Arca
Film - Live-Action
- The underground refuge in Deep Impact, designed to ensure continuity of the species in the face of an impending extinction-force impact, is called the Arc.
- Evan Almighty is basically a modern retelling of the original story of Noah, with a few twists (most notably, the flood comes not from rain but from a dam breaking).
- Several of 'em can be seen in 2012. They manage to be some of the least ridiculous things in the movie (which isn't to say they aren't utterly ridiculous).
- Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. The Big Bad Dr. Totenkopf planned for a rocket ship to take a cargo of animals to another planet. As for the cataclysm, the rocket would have caused that on the way up.
Polly: My God, Joe. It's an ark.
- Moonraker: Drax created his space station to hold the humans who would repopulate the Earth after the deadly spores killed everyone on the surface. When the two leads see that their space shuttle is carrying a cargo of men and women:
Holly Goodhead: What do you mean by that?
James Bond: Noah's Ark. This operation.
- This was also the bad guy's plot in the B-movie Theodore Rex.
- Is one of the episodes in the 1936 Warner Bros.. film The Green Pastures, which retold The Bible from the perspective of a poor African-American child.
- In The Last Flight Of Noahs Ark, the eponymous plane is not an ark per se, but borrows some themes due to transporting a lot of animals and becoming a boat.
- Muppets from Space opens with a dream sequence in which Gonzo is denied entrance to Noah's ark because he doesn't know what species he is. Noah gives him an umbrella.
- In After Earth leaving earth in space arks forms part of the backstory.
- Potiphar Femm in The Old Dark House (1963) is convinced that another biblical flood is imminent, and has built an ark, complete with animals, in the backyard of his ancestral home.
- The Bible, specifically Genesis 6-9.
- In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Ford and Arthur visit such a ship, one of three sent out from a doomed planet to colonize someplace else (which turns out, naturally, to be Earth). Subverted in that the ship turns out to be just a ruse to rid the original planet of the third of its population considered most useless (namely, middlemen). The narration then proceeds to mention that their homeworld shortly after was wiped out by a global pandemic that could have been prevented by said middlemen.
- In Flood, great ships (of the floating and spaceborne variety) are built to escape the global flood. They are, of course, called "Arks".
- The spaceship in the books composing the Deep Water Black trilogy turns out to contain the genetic structure of pretty much every animal on Earth, at which point the characters point out themselves they're on an ark. Then it turns out there were actually two arks — the other one contains all of humanity's genes.
- In the YA novel Devil on My Back by Monica Hughes, the hero's Domed Hometown is called Arc One, generally assumed to be due to the curve of its roof, but the hero eventually discovers that it was originally Ark One, built so that the population could survive The End of the World as We Know It.
- Timothy Findley takes a rather cynical view of the Ark in Not Wanted On The Voyage, with Dr. Noah Noyes as a despot tyrannizing his family during the Flood. The story muses on a despondent Yahweh, on the long-suffering Mrs. Noyes, on the lady devil Lucy who marries one of Noah's sons, on the innocence of the animals, and the general follies of being human amid the affairs of the gods.
- Andrei Livadny's novel The Ark has the protagonist find out that the strange collection of worlds with different races he visits are, in fact, biospheres on a massive ship sent a long time ago by humans to find and collect intelligent lifeforms and bring them back. A malfunction results in the senior staff getting killed off, and their families being locked in their own biosphere to slowly degrade to Medieval state. The ship is falling apart due to centuries (if not millennia) of neglect. The twist in the end implies that the Ark somehow travels back in time and ends up becoming the Biblical Ark (its splashdown causes the Great Flood), with the first person out of the ship being an old shepherd named Noah.
- Of course, there's a bit of Fridge Logic there, as a Moon-sized (the ship is literally made out of the carved-out Moon) object hitting Earth would render the planet uninhabitable.
- There's also the question of what is supposed to happen to all the alien races on the ship.
- A variation in the Strugatsky Brothers' novel Space Mowgli has a planet which the humans call Ark. The humans plan to relocate there a primitive race from a dying world. However, in order to preserve the delicate balance of the race's ecosystem, they find a habitable world with no native lifeforms, not even bacteria, so that the entire biosphere can be recreated there. Then things get weird, when the humans find out that Ark is home to strange and powerful beings who don't want humans there.
- In Fire World, the Librarium becomes one during the flood, complete with animals and plants.
- Artic Drift has the villains using custom built superships to survive the apocalypse they are causing to Take Over the World for their Master Race. The ships are Crazy-Prepared, including massive machinery, farm animals and seeds of all kinds, various cultural artifacts, ect.
- On the Discworld, there's an Urban Legend about the founding of Ankh-Morpork that tells how a wise man foretold a Great Flood, gathered his family and hundreds of animals into a big ship, and rode it out. After a few weeks' sailing, the accumulated wastes from all the animals were filling up the vessel, so they tipped all the manure over the side, and built a city on the resulting dung-island.
- Joked about in Holes. The kids see a cloud in the sky, the first they've ever seen in this arid desert, and start joking about how they need to start building an ark. It's all just to get their hopes up, as Camp Green Lake hasn't had rain for a hundred years.
- In Mark S. Geston's Lords of the Starship, the eponymous ship is supposedly a gigantic ark intended to take the chosen away from their Crapsack World to a paradisiacal new planet. Unfortunately for the chosen it's nothing of the kind.
- A unique take on the theme is Francis Carsac's Terre En Fuite (Fleeing Earth). When the Second Civilization (the one to come after ours is destroyed by another Ice Age) discovers that the Sun is about to go nova, they turn Earth into a Planet Spaceship. Instead of evacuating the terraformed and colonized Venus, they decide that it's easier to turn it into another Planet Spaceship. Massive underground shelters are constructed to hold people (it helps that the majority of people already live in arcologies), water, and air, as well as whatever plant and animal species they can save. Massive "space magnet" engines are constructed at planetary poles (except for Earth's North Pole, which lacks land, which is substituted with a dozen smaller ones along the Arctic Circle) to move the planets. Initially, the plan is to move the two planets into the Outer Solar System to wait out the nova. However, later studies reveal that, afterwards, the Sun will turn into a black dwarf incapable of sustaining life, necessitating the full use of the trope.
- As a side note, the Moon stays with Earth without any engines, since it's still gravitationally tied to it.
- Doctor Who:
- In the First Doctor serial "The Ark", the Earth is destroyed by the sun going nova, and a spaceship carrying the surviving humans, as well as samples of the animal and plant life, sets out to colonize a distant Earth-like planet.
- In the Fourth Doctor serial "The Ark in Space", the Earth is rendered temporarily uninhabitable by solar flares, and the surviving humans, as well as samples of the animal and plant life, sit it out in suspended animation on a space station. (The station commander even adopts the name "Noah"; his second-in-command tells the Doctor that they know it's not much of a joke, but under the circumstances they were taking their laughs where they could find them.)
- In the Fifth Doctor serial "Frontios", the Earth is doomed to "a catastrophic collision with the Sun", and a spaceship carrying refugees sets out to colonize a distant Earth-like planet. (The ship itself is not such a focus in this story, which begins after it
lands crashes, resulting in the loss of most of their advanced technology.)
- In the Eleventh Doctor episode "The Beast Below", the Earth is rendered temporarily uninhabitable by solar flares, and the planet's population sets out in spaceships to find somewhere else to live until it's habitable again.
- In "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship", the title ship was one for the Silurians who built it and took the dinosaurs along.
- This happens occasionally in the Stargate Verse.
- And strangely, too — both Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis featured cases of civilizations trying to survive by storing just their inhabitants' minds, which, admittedly, would save a lot of resources.
- The ship that brings the Ancients back to Atlantis might qualify too, though it wasn't sent out with that intention.
- Stargate Universe also has the sublight ships built by the Novus colonists, who sent them to move the population to another planet. The trip is supposed to take 200 years.
- A Filmation series in the 1970s on CBS Saturday mornings called Ark II peddled a
environmentalist conservationist message.
- In Defiance the Votan came to Earth in a fleet of Ark ships that also carried terraforming devices. Which are now a debris ring around the planet with occasional "Arkfalls" that are looted by scavengers (and a key part of the MMO).
- The Ark, the giant space station in The 100. The residents there are the descendants of the few humans who escaped a nuclear Armageddon due to being in space at the time.
- ''Cosmos' 2014 series uses this as a metaphor for the propagation of life with the possible transportation of microbes via asteroid impact debris that gets launched into space. Tyson draws a comparison with the Deluge myth as told in The Epic of Gilgamesh as a way life might be preserved and travel to other worlds (or might have survived the frequent impacts in the Hadean era).
- Kayak's "Chance for a Lifetime" is about a guy who's planning to build a space ark to save the human race from disaster. He may just be a loony.
- Jon Anderson's album Olias of Sunhillow is all about the construction of an organic spaceship to save the inhabitants of a doomed planet.
- One The Far Side strip has a string of animals filing two-by-two into a military base and heading for a waiting rocket.
- Boner's Ark, a gag-a-day strip about Captain Boner and the various animals on his ark. (Noah had it easy - Boner's ark was on the sea for 32 years, only reaching dry land in the final strip.)
- In the BBC Radio science fiction series Earthsearch II the crew of a starship abandon it, and its evil computers, to colonise an Earthlike planet which turns out to be Earth. In an attempt to get the crew back the computers use its terraforming devices to melt the polar icecaps. The crew have to use their large shuttle as an ark to save some of the local flora and fauna.
- Traveller Classic Double Adventure Horde: The unnamed inhabitants of a planet in the Alenzar system were about to be wiped out by a plague of carnivorous animals. They created spaceships with mechanisms to freeze the passengers, who would exist as Human Popsicles for the long trip to another solar system.
- Warhammer has a subversion in form of the Black Arks. Dark Elves created them to escape after a lost civil war, but now use them for waging wars and pirate raids.
- Warhammer 40,000 has the Eldar craftworlds, massive spaceships built to escape an impending disaster that destroyed the old Eldar empire. Unlike many arks, the craftworlds were built as self-sustaining worlds that would travel the galaxy, rather than as simple transportation away from danger.
- The Flowering Peach by Clifford Odets (adapted into The Musical Two by Two) is a play about Noah and his sons building the Ark.
- In Sacred Guns, Mark Leung is an archangel that must defend Noah's ark from the unworthy creatures.
- The Yamato Ark in Ōkami brought the gods to earth after Yami sacked heaven. (Unfortunately, Yami came along...)
- The main character in Terranigma is named Ark. Why? He's The Chosen One who has the power to revive the dead surface of the earth and all its inhabitants.
- Ishra's Ark, a large airship of indeterminate origin, serves as one of the most memorable levels of Klonoa 2
- The Halo universe contains a Forerunner megastructure (no points for guessing what its name is) which is approximately 262,144 lightyears from the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy, well out of range of the Halo superweapons that kill everything within 25,000 light years of them. It too is to escape "The Flood", represented here by ancient alien zombies.
- The Ark is not only the ultimate Forerunner defence in that it serves as, well, an ark, but also because it provides a remote detonator for any and all of the Halo rings.
- Halo also has the Shield Worlds. 343 Guilty Spark hypothesized that the Ark would be in one, but was proven wrong.
- The entirety of the game Brink is set on a deconstructed utopia floating along the surface of a flooded Earth (no points for guessing what this place is called, either). It was designed as a peaceful and fully sustainable city easily capable of being home to 5,000 people; however, everything gradually fell apart as the population grew to about 10 times as much, and the city is now on the brink of a civil war.
- Doom 2: After the demon hordes of Hell invade Earth, the remaining human population is loaded onto space ships that will carry them to safety.
- World of Warcraft has both the Exodar and the Oshu'gun.
- The Space Colony ARK from a handful of Sonic the Hedgehog titles is apparently a long-term habitable structure, but has remained inactive for the majority of the time we see it, staying in orbit over the planet.
- The planet Ilos in Mass Effect. Unfortunately, the Reaper harvest took much longer than their power supply could keep the Protheans on Ilos in stasis for, and it instead became a massive tomb for all but a handful.
- Likewise, the From The Ashes day-one DLC for Mass Effect 3 reveals Eden Prime to be an ark world, similar to Ilos from the first game. It fares hardly any better, but does at least contain one Last of His Kind survivor.
- Homeworld revolves around one, known as The Mothership.
- Shin Megami Tensei IV has Cocoons, in which the Angels stowed away Tokyo's young to be taken to the Millennial Kingdom they were building to be raised away from the "filth" of the rest of humanity. The Cocoons play different roles in all three parallel universes visited: in Blasted Tokyo, the Cocoons descend upon the death of the Ancient of Days, starting Genesis. In Infernal Tokyo, the Cocoons were destroyed by the still human Kenji and his men with a nuclear catastrophe being averted, but they took too long in cracking them open, resulting in the death of all the infants within. In the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado, they succeeded in their mission and left. A new one arrives when the prentices are sent after Yuriko to serve as the Archangels' new Mikado Castle at Shene Duque.
- Rage's Arks, similar to the Vaults in the Fallout series, were built to protect a small number of humans from the destruction brought on by the asteroid impact, opening after a hundred years underground.
- Rainbow Six's Ark is a complex of biodomes where John Brightling and his eco-terrorist lackeys plan to take shelter after unleashing their Synthetic Plague Depopulation Bomb on the world.
- The main goal of Earth 2150 is building a giant ship or a fleet of ships (depending on the faction) to evacuate your faction to Mars before Earth dies. There's not enough resources for all three factions to make it out, although this is contradicted by the sequel Earth 2160, which claims that all three factions made it out. You even end up finding the United Civilized States evacuation ship, with the population being held in stasis by the ship's AI waiting for the other two factions (the Eurasian Dynasty and the Lunar Corporation) to kill or severely weaken one another.
- Yogi Bear and his pals manned a flying version in Yogi's Ark Lark, the Pilot Movie for Yogi's Gang, a cartoon that premiered on ABC in 1972 and justifies the trope The Dark Age of Animation.
- The Autobots in Transformers traditionally come to Earth in a ship called the Ark, usually relating to how the planet becomes their second home for some time for one reason or another.
- The Beast Wars equivalent was the Maximal ship Axalon, which carried a number of Maximal protoforms in stasis, with the intent of having them adapt to the new worlds Optimus Primal's crew would explore. The Ark would play a significant role in the series as well.
- The Nemesis in Transformers Prime fits this trope for the Decepticons.
- Shows up in a space variant in Captain Planet and the Planeteers, with the alien who has a ship that's a refuge for animals extinct in their homelands. It's referred to as 'The Ark' at times.
- The Polish short Ark is Exactly What It Says on the Tin until The Reveal at the end.
- The Smurfs build arks for themselves and their animal friends in "Blue Eyes Returns" when Gargamel uses magic beans to create a flood that covers the entire Smurf Forest.