Eyewitness Accounts

Historical Eyewitness Accounts

Parrot & Abovian Ararat Climb

In 1829 Friedrich Parrot a professor of natural philosophy from the University of Dorpat in Estonia traveled to Armenia to climb Mount Ararat to conduct geological studies and required a local guide and a translator for the expedition. The Catholicos assigned Abovian to these tasks. With Khatchatur Abovian's assistance, Parrot became the first explorer in modern times to reach the summit of Mount Ararat.

Abovian and Parrot headed to the Armenian village of Agori situated on the northern slope of Ararat (Masis). They stayed at the Monastery of Saint Jacob* at elevation of ~6,350 feet. Abovian was one of the last travelers to visit Agori and the monastery before a disastrous earthquake completely buried both in May 1840. Their first attempt to climb the mountain, using the northeast slope, failed as a result of lack of warm clothing.

Six days later, on the advice of Stepan Khojiants, the village chief of Agori, the ascent was attempted from the northwest side. After reaching an elevation of 16,028 feet (4,885 m), they turned back because they did not reach the summit before sundown. They reached the summit on their third attempt at 3:15 p.m. on October 9, 1829. Abovian dug a hole in the ice and erected a wooden cross facing north. Abovian picked up a chunk of ice from the summit and carried it down with him in a bottle, considering the water holy. On November 8, Parrot and Abovian climbed up Lesser Ararat. Years later, in 1845, the German mineralogist Hermann von Abich climbed Ararat with Abovian. Abovian's third and last ascent of Ararat was with the Englishman Henry Danby Seymour in 1846.

*Saint Hakob (St. James) of Akori monastery:

The monastery was built in 1288 AD, upon the northeastern slope of Mount Ararat (Մասիս; the greater mountain is referred to as Masis in Armenian). Some sources say that S. Jacob was the name of the monastery while there was a chapel of S. James nearby (see Ararat Report April-May 1990), while other sources refer to the two as the same site. The monastery is said to have contained relics of wood from the Biblical Ark of Noah. A strong earthquake occurred at Mount Ararat on July 2, 1840 causing an avalanche that destroyed the monastery of S. Hakob, Arakelots Vank in the neighboring village of Akori as well as the village itself.

Dr. Friedrich Parrot and Khachatour Abovian were the first pioneers who climbed Mount Ararat with the permission of the Holy Echmiadzin in 1829. Even though they never came close to the Ark of Noah, but while they stayed at the St. James Monastery they witnessed many wooden relics from the Ark preserved at the church.

Top picture (a) is drawn by Dr. Parrot in 1829 and the bottom picture is drawn by Abich in 1845 which shows the destruction of Agori Village and the St. Jacob Monastery during the 1840 earthquake. Notice how the mountain has been reshaped

St. James at an elevation of 6350 ft. as written by Dr. F. Parrot in "Journey to Ararat"

Russian Map of Ararat and the surrounding region

Close up view with St. Jacob Monastery location circled in red at ~2100 meters of elevation

Saint Jacob (Hakob) or St. James was also the church where my great great-grandmother Haikanoush and her brother (Igdir region) were baptized before the 1840 earthquake. Haikanoush is the grandmother of Alexander Grigorian (my grandfather). Alexander Grigorian who was about the same age as George Hagopian, both were the survivors of the 1915 Armenian Genocide.