Donna D'Errico to Climb Mount Ararat in Search of Noah's Ark

Donna D'Errico to Climb Mount Ararat in Search of Noah's Ark

Former "Baywatch" star Donna D'Errico has enjoyed a pretty amazing career arc.

But the 42-year-old actress, who recently turned down a spot on "Dancing With the Stars," is now focusing on Noah's ark.

D'Errico, 42, is in training to fulfill a lifelong dream of climbing Mount Ararat in Turkey to search for the frozen remains of Noah's ark.

According to Biblical legend, the ark was built centuries ago to protect Noah's family and two of every kind of animal during a flood lasting 40 days and 40 nights.

After the great flood, the ark supposedly landed atop the mountain. Many believers have been looking for the remains ever since.

D'Errico is the next explorer who hopes to make what would be one of the greatest discoveries in human history.

"This has been a dream of mine since I was 9 or 10," D'Errico told AOL News. "I went to Catholic school and was fascinated by Noah's ark. I would do class projects based on the ark."

D'Errico's fascination with the biblical tale wasn't just a childhood passion. As she grew older, she continued to study and research the ark, especially stories suggesting that it was close to being found.

"I'd read different stories about how people thought they found the cages and I was completely intrigued," she said. "I decided that someday I'd go to Turkey, climb Mount Ararat and search for Noah's ark."

According to legend, the ark is located on Mount Ararat, a snow-capped, dormant volcanic cone in the easternmost part of Turkey that has two peaks: Greater Ararat, with an elevation of 16,854 feet, and Lesser Ararat, which is 12,782 feet above sea level.

Over the centuries, there have been many claims that the ark is still there in three big frozen chunks.

However, despite numerous sightings and expeditions, no solid proof of the ark has ever been found.

D'Errico would like to be the person who changes things and makes one of the biggest historical finds in human history.

"I've been studying this for years and know where the sightings have been," she said. "According to my research, the ark lays broken into at least two, but most likely three, pieces. I believe that one of those pieces is in the uppermost Ahora Gorge area, an extremely dangerous area to climb and explore."

But research alone isn't enough. D'Errico is training to get her stamina up enough to handle a climb nearly three miles high.

"It's not a technical climb," she said. "Many inexperienced climbers have done it, but you do need stamina and, obviously, a crew."

She is targeting August as the month she starts her ascent, and her trip is being sponsored by Bukla, a tour guide company in Turkey that's offering to provide transportation from Istanbul to Ararat and back, all equipment, mules, guide services and permits.

Now that her plans are set, D'Errico is swimming and running to build up her endurance.

What about running in slow-motion, a la "Baywatch"?

"Not doing that," she said with a laugh. "But I'll probably be climbing in slow motion when I start."

The decision to finally make the climb came after an intense few months.

First, she was traumatized after Transportation Security Administration officials singled her out for a body scan while she was on a plane flight to visit a sick relative. Then, she became infected with MRSA -- methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus -- and spent a few weeks in the hospital recovering.

"The doctors told me afterwards that I was very close to death when I came in," she said.

It was there that she decided to make a personal covenant to search for the lost ark.

"I have spent a lot of my life living for a lot of other people, whether it be because of my job or my family," she said. "My kids are almost grown up and I have fulfilled one dream of coming to Hollywood to become an actress. Now it's time to fulfill another."

D'Errico says her kids are supportive, but worried.

"My oldest son is excited, but his father has passed away, so I'm his only parent," she said. "He knows the climb can be dangerous -- especially when you're standing on a glacier."

Although there have been rumors that D'Errico turned down "Dancing With the Stars" to work on the climb, she says the two are not connected.

"I am working on a cooking show, which is also a longtime dream," she said.

D'Errico is making all the necessary plans but is aware that some things are left up to fate -- and the Turkish government.

"I don't think you need any official permission, but I've heard officials can be finicky and decide at the last minute whether to let you go," she said.

Still, if signing a few autographs or pictures helps grease any bureaucratic wheels, she's open to it.

But whatever happens will not be coming to a TV screen near you anytime soon.

"I am not doing a reality show," she insisted. "I will document this for myself and my family."

If D'Errico is the person who finally locates the ark, it will probably be more remembered than even her marriage to Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx or her photo spread in the September 1995 issue of "Playboy."

Some would argue that such a discovery might put the ark in jeopardy from poachers, but D'Errico believes the public has a right to know.

"It's a biblical relic, so if I find it, I'll photograph it extensively," she said. "Because it's so difficult to get to it and it's frozen, I don't see what people could do to it."

Although this expedition will require D'Errico to possibly go through another TSA scan at the airport, that's a risk she's willing to take.

"I will be traveling with photography and video equipment and intend to have someone videotaping as I go through security at the airport this time," she said. "I also will be carrying a copy of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution with me, as well as a printout of TSA regulations in case they attempt to prevent the videotaping of me going through security. I'll be better prepared this time."

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