Their footage caught the world's attention. In March, Noah's Ark Ministries International, or NAMI, claimed to have found and entered Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat in Turkey.
Like many others, Ark Researcher Dr. Randall Price, at Liberty University, was initially skeptical of the Chinese team's find, and particularly wary of their local guide, Parasut.
In an exclusive interview, Dr. Price told CBN that he's been to the mountaintop, and says he has verified that the discovery is a fabrication.
"We call this a hoax because it is a hoax. It was done by Parasut probably to extort money from NAMI," Price said.
Parasut is NAMI's most valuable asset and has been on retainer with the ministry for more than $80,000 per year.
Read NAMI's official response refuting Dr. Price's claims that their find is a hoax.
Bad blood between Price, Parasut, and NAMI is nothing new. In fact, Price was briefly a part of the NAMI team in 2008 when he first received Parasut's photos that got so much media attention earlier this year.
"He said, 'These are pictures inside Noah's Ark.' Now there was no context for them, just him inside of a wooden structure," Price said. "We've learned since that wooden structure came from Trabzone, near the Black Sea."
"It was an ancient ship not more than a couple hundred years old, but it's an old ship. He took the photos there," he explained. "Those were not on Mt. Ararat."
"But some of the wood from that structure was taken and a structure was constructed on Mt. Ararat," Price said. "And that's what the Chinese members of NAMI were taken to."
Price said in his most recent expedition to Mt. Ararat, he and others on the team went to the sites in the NAMI video, and even talked to and shot interviews with the locals who built the structures.
"They simply cut down into the ice. They put the wood there. They built part of a wall and part of a floor, which is the pictures you see... the pictures released by NAMI," Price said.
"And the person who was there with us was the one who constructed it," he said. "I can't reveal his identity because of the fact it would jeopardize his life actually."
What would the local's motivation be to reveal this was a hoax, if he really was putting his life on the line, then?
"He was very reluctant to talk to us. We persuaded him to do that as long as we kept his name and his image out of things because he would be known," Price explained. "He says, 'All of us involved with this were told we were making a movie set.'"
"This was a movie set for these Chinese people who were going to come and do a film on Noah's ark, which, in fact, they were," Price continued. "But it wasn't until they saw it on television, on Turkish programs and things that they realized they were claiming this really was Noah's Ark. They said, 'We're not liars. We don't want people to think we're bad people.'"
Whatever their motivation, Price said they did good work.
"It looks as though it had been there forever," he said.
Price said he hopes NAMI will give up on Parasut and admit they were wrong. NAMI, however, stands by their guide and their discovery.
The ministry has posted numerous interviews and responses on their web site in an effort to discredit Dr. Price.
But while Price may be disappointed by NAMI's reaction, he said the more pressing issue is the reputation Parasut and others in the village have as rough characters.
"We have our own security when we go. Look, I mean in the past we've had people try to poison us. We've had terrible things try to be done to us," Price said.
"The mountain itself is treacherous. But we are aware of who works with us now and what is going on," he continued. "We have our own security when we go with what we do. So I'm not concerned."
Price's Ark Site
Price has also been part of a team working on its own ark site, one more reason why the Liberty professor has been so skeptical about NAMI's discovery.
"Ground penetrating radar shows quite clearly there is an object, a very large object," Price explained to CBN. "From the angles, it's man made. There's nothing in nature that produces that angular effect. As we see it's box shaped. The upper end of it is about 23 feet under the glacier."
At that depth, Price said he hopes their team can dig down to the anomaly next summer. Until then, he's not jumping to any conclusions.
"To be proper and scientific about it, we don't want to connect the dots until we've actually done an excavation, uncovered the object, taken samples, documented this on film, and brought samples back for analysis," Price said.
"That is not pseudo archaeology. That's real archaeology," he added.
If it is not Noah's Ark, Price said he doesn't have any idea what else it could be.
"I can't think of anything else it could be," he said. "There shouldn't be anything like that up there."
For thousands of years Noah's Ark has been lost, perhaps trapped atop a barren mountain in eastern Turkey. Explorers, archaeologists, and adventurers have searched for it for more than a century and a half.
But at this point in history, we could be on the cusp of proving the ark's existence to the world, and making what most researchers agree would be the greatest archaeological discovery of all time.