In our lives, we often are influenced by two things, the books we read and the people we meet. Those two things set us off in a new directions. We always have that influential person or a few in our lives that are so influential that they take us in a new direction. For Bob Cornuke, that person was Jim Irwin who had been to the moon and back and had a cathartic moment while seeing the earth from space. Their first of many expeditions started with the search for Noah’s Ark. More expeditions followed and eventually, it led him to write books. Storytelling, Bob shares, is a skill set that he’s never tapped into as a young man. He likes to encourage people to take advantage of every season of their lives and try to find those things they have buried deep inside of them. The only way of finding and tapping buried skill sets is challenging yourself and going out on a limb sometimes. For Bob, it was writing, and now he’s doing it as a profession.
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Tapping Buried Skill Sets: Living The Life You Were Truly Meant To Live with Bob Cornuke
Thanks for having me on your podcast.
We’re sitting in the living room. I have a buffalo head behind me with a Sharps ‘52 carried by one of Bob’s family members or built by Bob’s family members.
Actually, I’m the great, great grandson of Christian Sharps. If you saw Quigley Down Under, that’s a Sharp rifle, a true grit. I am the great, great grandson of Christian Sharps.
I’ll make sure I behave.
We’re sitting here, we have this beautiful day. We’re overlooking a pond and part of a golf course. I’m going to take in, go off-grid, and let you explore and talk to some of the folks about what it is that you do and what gets you going down this path.
It’s certainly not a place I’d ever expect to go to in my life. Early on, I received a football scholarship at Fresno State early on, and then had a real desire to be in law enforcement. After college, I got involved with the Costa Mesa Police Department. I was about ten years on the department and an FBI-trained homicide investigator for the department. Then I got in a bad shoot out and the man died. I came out here to Colorado and was doing some fly fishing with my brother, Paul Cornuke, and he was an air traffic controller out here. I fell in love with Colorado immediately. From LA and Orange County and the traffic, and especially after the shooting, I said, “I’ve had a nice experience in law enforcement and I’m seeing all the older guys straining to retirement, not liking the job, and complaining about everything.” I didn’t want to be that. I thought it was a good time to step away from law enforcement and try some new challenges in life.
I came out to Colorado and I got involved with real estate development and within a few years I had 125 employees in three offices and made partnership with my brother Paul. He left air traffic control. To date, he’s very successful in real estate. He has 1,900 employees now in Florida. He’s doing quite well. We got into real estate, did well together, a good partnership, and meshed really well, but during that process, I met a man named Jim Irwin, who is the eighth man to walk on the moon, the first one to drive the car on the moon. In our lives, we often are influenced by two things. The two main things are the books we read and the people we meet. Those two things set us off in a new direction, and we always have that influential person or a few in our lives that are so influential that they take this in a new direction. Jim had been to the moon and when he came back, he had a real desire to go find lost locations in the Bible of all things. He had a very spiritual experience on the moon. He actually is the first one to quote Bible verse from the Moon.
He came back from the moon and he said it just impacted him. He was up there in the lunar surface and he looked out at the black canopy of space and he saw the earth. It was green and blue and white and brown suspended in this vacuum of depth, this vacuum of cold, dark space, and it was living and breathing. To him, he felt that there has been a master craftsman who created, God. At that moment he said he had a real cathartic moment. He came back, he met with me and said, “I want you to go look for Noah’s Ark with me,” of all things. I thought if you look for Noah’s Ark that you’ve wrapped tinfoil around your head and you look for the mothership. That’s a crazy thing to do, but I was looking for adventure. I had a little hole in my heart where my badge used to be right there. That adventure was lost for a little while. To regain it, I said, “Let’s go over to Turkey.” At the time it was a wild and crazy adventure over there. Turkey was involved in the civil war. This goes back to 1985. My first trip with Jim was in ‘85, and we went and looked for Noah’s Ark and didn’t find it, but we flew a plane around the mountain. In fact, we upset the Iranians and the Turks and when the team landed the airplane, we were arrested for spying and espionage and under house arrest and on CNN and news and astronauts captured my mom’s side on the news and I’m over there, arrested in Turkey, but they let us go off for a little while.
It was exciting to be a part of something so adventurous, thrilling, as being in an airplane with the windows open, the doors are off, and you could see Noah’s Ark at any minute. Any minute, you’re going to see those rotting timbers of this old boat and have the greatest discovery of all time, change people’s perspective of the Bible in a unique way. That was pretty heavy stuff for me as a young guy who’s just a dumb old cop for ten years. I loved it and started doing other talks, more expeditions, and another expedition will lead to another expedition. Then people would ask me to come speak and I go to large conferences and churches and organizations. After awhile, there are some books that spun off from it and now producing documentaries. It took me in a whole different direction than I had originally planned.
You go over the books and expeditions rather quickly. How many published books have you gotten so far?
To date, I have ten books and have published by Broadman & Holman, Tyndale, Simon &Schuster, those kinds of publishers. Now I’m having my books being printed out of New Zealand, international, more of an international presence. A lot of my books are being published over into Scandinavia and we’re having them being distributed all over the world in many different languages. When I was 50 years old, I wrote my first book, so I didn’t even know that I could write it until someone said, “Could you write a book?” Then I realized I have this skill that I didn’t realize and I’m a good storyteller. I had these books in the first one, people went, “This is amazing. Can you do another one and can you do another one?”
It’s interesting that a lot of times later in life, when we’re in the autumn years of our life, we realize we have skill sets that we’ve never tapped into as young men, because we’ve pretty much convinced ourselves, “This is what I can do. This is what it can’t do.” You live within those parameters, but that is not true. There are probably some great skills that a lot of people will have and enjoy. They’re quite amazing. Someone told me once, “The best books, the best poems, and the best music has gone to the grave with people. We don’t have them today.” The best books had been buried with people that didn’t know that they had the skills. I like to encourage people to take advantage of every season of your life and try to find those things. The only way you find those is you’ve got to challenge yourself and go out on limb sometime. For me it was writing, and now I’m doing it as a profession.
I think about some of the accommodations on some of your trips overseas, and some bit of a challenge here and there, a couple of scary things. How do you think that influenced your writing?
I always tell people writing is really easy, it’s getting the words in the right order that’s the hard part. Logic makes you think and emotion makes you act. There are two parts to writing. You want people to get the cerebral, but it’s the visceral that transforms people, that really changes their hearts. If you write and it’s not geared towards changing someone’s heart, your demise will be writing a catalog for Sears or something. Your books have to have some way of nudging someone’s heart, the emotion side of man, and inspiring the humanity in people, that they can do things that they believe that can’t do. A lot of my expeditions, I take men that have been pretty much saying “I don’t have any adventure in my life. I’ve been in a business and it’s very linear and it’s very controlled and it’s very boring after awhile. Can I go with you and go on these expeditions?” One man was the former president of Avis Rent a Car, and the other was the head of Baylor Medical Systems. These guys were great on these expeditions because they were like little kids. We’re on Tom Sawyer’s island experience for these guys. When you can bring that out of them, that little giddy kid out of an older guy that’s constantly dealing with challenges, that’s always funny to.
There’s another thing build that that these guys did on a trip. I had three industry leaders, one of the biggest industry leaders in the country with me on an expedition, of all places, Iran. We’re doing a high mountain climb in Iran on an expedition. We had some satellite imagery and some people said they saw something high on this mountain, we were going to go check it out, a biblical note. Before I went on the trip, I’m thinking to myself, “When I go on a trip and I’m the expedition leader, it’s not a democracy. I know what I’m doing, and we can get in trouble if you don’t listen to me.” I told my wife, I said, “I’m worried about getting over there and having these guys that are literally have thousands and thousands of employees.” They sat me down the night before the expedition and they talked to me and I go, here it comes. They all said, “You’re the expert. We’re going to do everything that you tell us to do, and there’ll be zero problem.”
I didn’t have this conversation with them. They didn’t know I had these concerns, but that told me what great leaders they were, because they could tap into the expertise of someone else and take that controlling nature that they have, put it on the shelf, because they knew that they needed to have an expert be the leader. I thought that was amazing. They were very compliant and they had great personalities. They had great fun on the mountain, never complained. It was dangerous and hot and it was cold, and we didn’t have the best sleeping accommodations. You can imagine 13,000 feet in a tent where the wind’s whipping outside is not exactly a mint on the pillow when you go to bed at night experience, and they loved it.
When they came back, what do you think they would say was their biggest a-ha or take away?
They said, first of all, they felt that they were too old to climb a mountain. On that expedition, we had three guys that were over 60 climbing up a pretty rough mountain. They weren’t mountaineering-experienced, but we had the best equipment and we had some horses to help carry this stuff, which goes a long way. You’re not carting up 70 pounds on your back, but it is still tough because you’re going up these areas in a very remote area of the world, in a very hostile area of the world towards Americans a lot of times. They came back and said that it gave them a little breath of fresh air that they hadn’t had for a long time. They didn’t realize they could do it, and when they came back they were sore, but that’s what it is. Sometimes we get to an age. I was trying to say earlier, we get to an age or we say, “I can’t go there. I can’t push myself anymore because it’s physical.” I said, “You can go twice as far as you think you can.”
When I was on a mountain once over in Turkey, I was so exhausted and I was so tired and we had flares going off and the government was chasing us. The Kurds and the Turks were fighting and the government thought we were with the Kurds and they’re chasing us. We’re going and we’re going and we’re exhausted. I told my friend Bob Stewart, “I can’t take another step.” He goes, “When you tell yourself you can’t go any further, you’re halfway there. You got another half tank left in the tank. You just never pushed yourself that far.” I did. From that point on, I did twice as much as I thought I could do, because he’s right. We put a self-govern on our mind and our hearts and we don’t go there a lot of times. When you think you can’t go anywhere any further, you’re halfway there and there’s a whole lot left.
When you tell yourself you can't go any further, you're halfway there. You just never pushed yourself that far.
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Before you started doing the trips and adventures and now, what do you think the biggest change for you was the result of all of these trips and adventures?
I get a lot of public notoriety. I do a lot of radio, a lot of TV, ABC, CBS History, Travel Channel. I do all that, but the real change is I gain a perspective of humility. When I was younger, I was full of adventure and full of myself, when I started doing these trips, I thought, “I’m a pretty good hot shot.” If you talk to old pilots, you’re talking about aviation, these guys, they get humble as they get older. I realized that if you don’t look at others around you and treat them better than yourself, then you’re doing a disservice. For instance, I was over in Ethiopia and I’m doing an expedition over there, it’s a History Channel show, and I saw a starving little child. I said, “Who feeds him?” “No one. He’s an orphan. We raised money and we helped build an orphanage.” Then I saw these kids walking around and I said, “Where do you go to school?” They don’t have a school. I raised the money and we have a thousand-seat schoolhouse over there. This woman was complaining about all their friends, the babies were dying in this village, one out of every five baby steps within a year. I helped raise the money with a guy named Barry Hudson out of Indianapolis. It is with his family, Elizabeth. Wonderful family. We got together and in a small way I helped build a neonatal clinic over there for these babies.
Then I started realizing it’s not what you do in the spotlight that’s important, it’s what you do in the shadows. I don’t put that on my internet. I’m talking about now because we’re having a discussion about the meaning, what these things I have done for my life. When you go over there and you see these kids in school and they’re reading a book and that they wouldn’t have a school if you didn’t go make an effort to do that. I learned that principle early on. I want to tell you the guy I had met that influenced me as much as Jim Irwin. When I was a police officer, I used to have coffee in the morning. At about [7:00] in the morning after midnight shift, I’d have coffee at that Winchell’s Donut on 17th street in Costa Mesa. I pull in there and I’d have my coffee about [7:00] and the shift went onat[8:00]. Time to unwind and gear it down after a night of potential danger. There was a big guy there usually in the parking lot holding a cup of coffee in his big fists and real big guy. I went up to him and I struck up a great friendship over the time, but his name was John Wayne, the Duke, the movie star. He would come and he would listen to the radio and he would be like a little kid listening to the radio. One day, these little Hispanic kids were over there with their noses pressed against the glass at Winchell’s and he goes, “Just a minute.” He walks over there and he puts down some money. It was probably to get them what they want, these kids.
Not the fact that he gave the money because he had more money than he could probably ever spend, but the fact that he would notice these kids and do something about it, that touched me. Here’s this guy, that’s bigger than life, and he’s gone over and he’s noticing that. I thought, “This is the kind of man I want to be.” I want to notice around me those that are not as fortunate, and then I also want to do something about it. Because of that first little spark of influence and now we have this school, we have the orphanages, we have the hospitals being built in Ethiopia. What’s amazing, I was recommended by Ben Carson, Dr. Ben Carson. I have a beautiful letter downstairs. I’ll show it to you. I have it in my office. I even framed that. It’s addressed to a President Trump recommending me to be the ambassador to Ethiopia. We got a cop and I’m being asked to be the ambassador of Ethiopia by Ben Carson to Donald Trump, get the hospitals over this. My life is in a completely different vein than I could’ve ever hoped or planned. It’s these serendipitous things that come in your life that you have to take advantage of.
We talked a little bit about the shows on various channels and about your explorations. Talk a little bit about the mechanism and how all that came to be.
TV is a consuming business. They’re constantly needing things to fill up that bucket. It’s like an hourglass. The sand is going through. You’ve got to keep putting sand in it or eventually it’s going to go, but they can’t turn it over and keep replaying the same things. They do often, but they can’t. They generally have to have something new to provide. Viewers are fickle. When I started doing these expeditions, I get a phone call from let’s say History Channel or Nat Geo or somebody and they’d say, “Can you come on our show and do this?” Off we go to Africa or off we go to Europe or something, we do these shows. Then I started doing quite a few Ripley’s Believe It or Not kind of things that we did for a while there. I constantly get asked to go do shows. The problem with television though is it’s gotten to be sensationalized that you can’t maintain intellectual integrity. My whole thing and the police work and my thing in the business I’m in or the ministry that I’m in now at Bible archeology is that you want to put out the truth, because the truth is something that you’re proud of.
When you’re constantly on TV and the cameras are going, this director says, “I want you to say it this way.” “I’m sorry. I’m not going to say it that way.” I had a book publisher with a big dollar book thing that said, “If you don’t put it this way, we’re not going to give you any money.” I said, “I’m not going to do the book. I’m going to say it this way because this is the truth.” Television has a real problem with pumping out information that’s truthful. It’s usually sensational or it’s an agenda that they carry that might not be in accordance with what my agenda is and with my beliefs. TV sometimes tries to get you to say things and, and I try to maintain that integrity that I started off with. If you start compromising here, you’re going to compromise in a lot of other places.
Is it usually starts first you can, once you do at once, you are going down a slippery slope there afterwards. I was talking to a friend of yours, we were at a basketball game not long ago. He was talking about some of the research that you’re doing in Jerusalem about sites and this site and that location. Maybe it would be fun to talk a little bit about some of that work that you’ve been doing.
A brief resume. I’ve been on 70 some expeditions now. I’ve been arrested five times in the Middle East for looking for lost locations. I’m not a spy, but I was in an unfriendly area that they didn’t like a guy carrying around a compass and a Bible, I guess. A Christian guy doing that. Hollywood is doing a movie and we’re in production right now of a movie, a real movie in a real theater where you go get popcorn and watch movie, where I was arrested once over in Saudi Arabia and I escaped. There have been several books written about it. I wrote a couple books about it. There have been a lot of books written about it and documentaries and a lot of TV shows and whatnot.
Let me get the short Rolodex of the expedition. We are looking for Noah’s Ark. We’re in Mount Sinai, the Ark of the Covenant. We found what we think to be Paul’s shipwreck off the coast of Malta and the four anchors mentioned in Acts 27 in the Bible, those four anchors. I worked over there with a gentleman on that project named Douglas Gresham, who’s CS Lewis Lewis’ step son. He owns all the Narnia movies that you see, Douglas Gresham. CS Lewis was his dad. Then I was involved with the Ark of the covenant in Ethiopia and Israel and Egypt. More recently, I’ve been involved with where is the correct location of Solomon’s inherits temples in Jerusalem, and I believe it’s not on the temple mount which might cause people an intellectual whiplash hearing that. I do believe that we have gotten that one wrong. That history is stunningly wrong, where the temples were located on the Temple Mount and people are going, “Everybody says it’s on the Temple Mount.”
I say it’s in the City of David. That’s caused quite a stir. I wrote a book about it called Temple and it sold like crazy. We can’t even keep them in print, they’ve been selling out fast. Then more recently, I’ve been trying to find the correct location of Christ’s crucifixion site based on the temple being in the correct location, being in the city of David over the spring. We have all these research projects and I don’t have to go out and look for them anymore. Right now, I sit back and people call me on the phone and says, “I found this. Will you check it out?” “Can we do this? Can we do that together?” The problem is I overextend myself when I started doing that. We talked earlier about saying no. My wife tells me that I don’t have the ability to say no. That’s my biggest weakness, is I want to be all things for all people. She told me, she says, “Bobby, if you can’t say no, if you’re a woman, you’d be pregnant all the time. You’ve got to learn to say no.”
When you run across controversy, that goes against dogma for lack of a better term. There are various groups over there that have a vested interest. What type of pushback do you get from it?
Tremendous amount of pushback. Most people will live in a paradigm of what they’ve been taught. I call it the safe harbor of mutual consent. Most scholars are not interested in looking for information to help them make a decision. They’re looking for confirmation from others to justify an opinion that they already have. They have a belief system or they’ve written a book on it or they led a tour over there or they’ve lectured on this and this certain way that they look at it, and they’re very hesitant. It’s almost impossible to get them off of that tradition. Tradition is a derailer. From a biblical standpoint of the scripture, Jesus says your traditions will nullify the word of God. We’re looking at something, “These are powerful traditions.” I look at things to finding truth in a different way. If we look for truth, there’s two ways to do it. Most scholars will come with the premise plus proof method, where they come up with a hypothesis and they get all their source material and they put it around it and they get in and say, “I have all these people agreeing with me.” They all put a lot of footnotes in their books, but these are footnotes on people that agree with them. I can make footnotes of people that disagree with them, but they have a book and they try to stay in a safe harbor of mutual consent. They don’t go out in the choppy waters of controversy. That’s not the way you find truth. The way you find truth is the way cops find truth, the way that I found truth is as a police investigator. That’s what is the problem and what are the possibilities.
That’s completely turning scholarship on its head. Scholarship is not finding truth. It’s just finding consensus and persuasiveness. The way you find truth is you say, “What is a problem and what are the possibilities?” For instance, on our Mount Sinai searches, the Bible says Galatians [4:24] that Mount Sinai is in Arabia, but everybody’s looking in the Sinai Peninsula. They even named the peninsula Sinai, because of Queen Elena in the fourth century. She was a fortune teller, she pursues the mother of Constantine, the emperor of Rome. She guessed it that was the mountain, and because she guessed, everybody’s since that time has said, “Okay.” They’ve been repeating it for long. No one’s ever said, “Why don’t we look into Arabia where the Bible says?” If you look in history, Flavius Josephus, Demetrius, and Bilo from 250 BC has said that Mount Sinai’s in Arabia. I don’t want to do a history class here, but I’m doing this to illustrate that there are ancient scholars and historians that have said it, and yet we follow traditions.
It’s the hook and our jaw that draws us into a place that may or may not be truthful. There are a lot of traditions that are in families, a lot of traditions in our government. There are a lot of traditions in religion and relationships. There are traditions in medicine, because this is the way they’ve been taught and that’s the real disservice to truth. If we’re going to have truth, we have to be bold and willing to go against tradition now. Then you’ll encounter what I encounter is there’s an old saying, and I’m paraphrasing from FF Bruce who said, “We must bear in mind that the cause of learning is expressed by those who are willing to expose their brainwaves to the pitiless criticism of others.” No one wants to do that. There are three things that scholars want. They want prestige, they want to be promoted, and they want to be published. If they start saying something that gets tradition, they’ll not get prestige, they’ll not get published, and they will not get promoted.
We’re dealing with a lot of university professors that are completely stuck in a rut and they’re deep in it that they can’t look out over the edge of that rut, and they’ll never get out of it. What are they doing? They’re teaching university system and they’re teaching the university system now. I thought they have freedom of speech. Not to go against with what they’re saying, but to go along or you don’t get the right grade. Someone will compromise and they’ll go along because they don’t want to upset the professors. That’s not education, that’s indoctrination. Those are things we find in communist countries. We’re becoming that, because we’re not allowed to go to a professor and say, “I believe this way in a different way,” and because if you don’t, then you get ostracized. You get a bad grade. We’ve all gone through that. You write what you want them to hear, not what is truth. We have that in our culture. The thing about what I do is to try and find truth in my archaeological work, in my research, but I’m dealing with scholars that will attack you vehemently and mercilessly on the Internet and other places if you dare to cross them. Dare to.
For all the folks that are dogma-driven, for the folks that believe like you do on evidence-based work, where do those type of folks usually come from? Is there a broad spectrum of business owners that believe like you do?
Business owners are handcuffed in a lot of ways because they don’t want to be accused of using their religion, for they might be showing favoritism to someone who goes to church with them or believes a certain way that they believe, so they have to be very careful. We have to be very careful with how we talk to women and women talking to men. We have to be very careful. We govern our minds today, and we can have those kinds of open discussions at a cocktail party. You can’t talk about religion or politics, or doing family dinners and thanksgiving. Those are things to stay away from. These are things we should be able to talk about. The problem is that today, it is culturally being so politically correct. We are not able to talk about things openly because a lot of times, we don’t honor the other person’s viewpoint. What I try to do is listen and say, “Please tell me your viewpoint and I’ll honor that viewpoint, and I expect the same if we’re going to have a discussion,” because that’s the way you come to truth. You have to put away your presuppositions and your emotions about this. A lot of people will make decisions. They make a decision based on emotion and they back it up with logic, and we’re great at that. We can make a decision based on our feelings and then we can grab all this logic. That’s what premise plus proof thing coming in a different angle.
I think about some of the questions I typically ask. As an author, has there been a book that’s been influential to you on how you think and how you operate?
There are a lot of books. The really good books that I’ve written. By the way, when you’re writing books, it’s hard to read other books. Let’s say you write a book, and I just wrote a book on tradition. It took me eight and a half years to do. I had to read 50 books to get the materials that I needed to help do that, plus travel Europe and interview a bazillion people. You don’t have time for that, sitting around on the beach and reading a book, which I love to do. The books that I enjoy to read that I get captured in are the books that are of historical nature. Killing The Rising Sun recently. In fact, I’m reading that right now. It’s by O’Reilly and Dugard. We learn from what’s happened in the past and how people have reacted over the years, either good or bad, the good players in the bad players. To me, that’s what I want to learn from, is I want to learn from human nature’s successes and defeats. That makes me a person that can respond better to successes and defeats in my own life.
Some of the expeditions where you go out, maybe the expedition doesn’t work out at the time, it seems like a failure perhaps. Can you look back over your timeframe and where you go, “In retrospect, it was a failure, but I learned so much. It helped me do other things in the future. Is anything come to mind like that?
Almost every expedition, it results in a lot of failures. Every time I write something about it that say, “Look what we found. This is great.” They don’t realize the hours and hours of loneliness, the hours of failure, the hours of missing an airplane, getting your passport stolen, getting people on your team, and someone getting sick and they’re in the hospital. People always have this glamorous view of exploring that you put a helmet on and you walk through the jungle and you find Livingston. It’s not that way. Another great book is Into Africa, about Stanley and Livingstone. That’s a book that I enjoyed. I read that. A fascinating book telling about the story of Stanley and where he started his journey started right over here in Colorado. Then he eventually found Livingstone over in Africa. Great story.
Everything we do usually is a problem. I will tell you a great story. I was over in Malta. There’s a story in the Bible in Acts 27 and 28 about Paul being on a shipwreck. We believe Luke is writing, the Dr. Luke in the Bible. It took place in 60AD to 63AD right in there. We don’t know the exact date, but we can put it right into that. We believe we knew where Paul’s shipwreck went to ground. I was doing a book on it and a documentary on it. There was a lady in our group, she was the wife of a pastor, and she didn’t like the heat because there’s this beach hotel we’re on. Unfortunately, they had no heat and the church bells were going every fifteen minutes. She just went crazy and I’m not used to that in an expedition. There are very few women we take. My wife is incredible. I want to make that clear. My wife is amazing, sometimes she’s better than the guy, she’s tougher, but she wasn’t prissy about stuff. I said I’ll take her over to another hotel with her husband, and we checked into that hotel on the other side of the island.
After I checked in there, I went down by the beach, there was a dive shop. This old diver said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’m looking for these four anchors from Paul’s shipwreck.” He goes, “Where do you think they are?” I went through and he goes, “We found four anchors in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s right over here, and they’re the same date.” I realized where Luke was saying we were in the wrong reef. We needed to be on Munxar Reef. In other words, through that problem, this great opportunity came that would never have come unless we changed the hotels. Sometimes you got to realize maybe these things happen for a reason and you need to embrace a little bit more of the failures than curse them.
How do I find you in social media?
That’s a downfall because I’ve not been a social media guy. I do have a Facebook page that I have if they want to go, but Base Institute is my website. They can get to me and read about all my stuff on BaseInstitute.org. I have a ton of YouTube videos that are out there. One is called Temple that’s received, that’s going crazy. The Mountain of Fire is on YouTube. They can see my documentaries through there. One is called Golgotha with Bob Horner who can see YouTube there. We’ve been great success on YouTube. We’re very message-driven. For instance, we’re going to sell the Temple. It took us a lot of time and money to put that out there. Then this guy said, “Let’s just put it out there because this is great. We want the world to be changed through this.” Sure enough, we put it out there and has been viewed in the millions now and different people have been seeing this all over My Temple. Then my interview on temple and all these things, that the guy called me said over 2,000,000 people have seen this. I couldn’t have sold 2,000,000 copies of the thing. Sometimes you’re better off giving than trying to monetize everything that you do. Instead of quantifying, “Let me see how I’m going to make money off this,” you just say, “Let me just get it out there and try to enrich people’s lives.” Sometimes that works out to be better.
I was thinking as you were talking of all the places you’ve traveled and all of the various meals that you have enjoyed in some places and maybe enjoyed a little less than others. What’s your favorite dish from your travels that you discovered?
That’s an easy one. My favorite dish is by far the easiest one I can tell you about. I was with Larry Williams. He’s my partner in some of these business trips. He was a commodities trader of the year at the Wall Street Journal, nominated twice for United States senator. His daughter is Michelle Williams, who has four Academy award nominations. Larry and I were over in the desert in Saudi Arabia and it’s where I was arrested and escaped, and they’re doing the moving on. We’re about seven days in the desert. It was 128 degrees over there. We had no air conditioning. Literally, the only way we stayed alive is pouring water on us and our bodies continually drinking. You can drink four liters of water and not have to pee. It’s so dry over there and you’re sweating much. We came out of the desert eating just granola bars. We ran out of food and we’re eating seeds for about a couple of days. We came out of the desert, we came to a little gas station called Alcan gas station, Muslim little gas station on the road out of Tabuk. You breathe the air in your lung, your lungs hurt from the air is hot, it scares you. Then we’d go to this gas station. There’s nothing for sale to eat there except they had one can of beans and it was covered with dust.
Saudis don’t eat the beans for some reason like this, but it’s like a Campbell’s can of beans. It was on the shelf when we dusted it off, we bought it, and we pop the lid off. After being in the desert for long just drinking water, we were licking our dirty fingers. I’d never tasted anything that’s tasted so good, because a lot of times the best drink of water you’re ever have is when you’re the most thirsty. Sometimes the best moment you have is in the toughest experience that you have. Out of all the meals I’ve had, I remember we were licking the inside of the can. Here’s a guy who was one of the wealthiest guys I know, Larry Williams. We’re in there, two guys with dirty fingers, licking this can because it was good. I didn’t know what the life lesson or metaphor is for that, but I remember that tasted so incredible and we both laugh about that often because it was wonderful.
Things happen for a reason and you need to embrace a little bit more of the failures than curse them.
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It certainly gives you a yard stick. “Are you having a bad day?” “No, I know what bad looks like. It doesn’t look like this.”
When you get arrested and you go through that, it does give you perspective.
You lead tours over there too, do you not?
Yes. We do a lot of tours. I just led a tour to Africa, really adventurous. There’s a theory that the Ark of the Covenant is in Ethiopia. A lot of people aren’t aware of that, but I’ve done a couple of History Channel shows on it. I just did a Travel Channel show and it shows up all the time on Travel Channel, on Expedition Unknown. I’m doing a tour to Israel and we put it out on the Internet and we’re sold out on that one. I’m planning some other trips next year.
If someone wanted to go on a trip with you, how would they be made aware? How will they find them?
They’d go on Base Institute website. I’m also working K-House, which is with Ron Matsen and a wonderful guy and Chuck Missler, a very famous guy and author. I’m doing work over there with them. We’re doing the tours together, so it’s either K House or BaseInstitute.org. We’re planning some new tours. One is Israel, it’s incredible because we think we’ve found evidence to show us where the true temple site is located for Solomon inherit. I went over to Israel. I’ve even met with Netanyahu and the head of the secret police over there and several major rabbis. This was becoming big news. You’re going to hear about this in the next five years. It’s going to be big news where the temple is located. Most people say the temple of Herod and Solomon were on the Temple Mount where that Gold Dome is, the Mosque of Omar that you see in every picture of Jerusalem, that high wall structure going around it. I think that was a Roman fortress in Antonia, and it wasn’t even where the temple was, but that’s where the Roman Legion was.
We’re finding new things, were stirring the pot primarily because we don’t look at history through a tube. We’re saying “Wait a second, what are the problems, what are the possibilities?” People will say, “There is no way that that’s not it.” It’s because they don’t ever take their minds and go in a different location. We take people on tours, we do teaching over there, and there’s something about being able to touch and see and feel these places. You can see the same horizon that Moses saw. You can walk in the footsteps of the prophets. There are something about being there that takes the heart and the mind to a different place. That’s why people love to travel. I think travel is not an expense. It’s an investment. We need to do more traveling, whether it’s biblical sites or traveling in general, seeing other cultures. That’s an investment in our mind. When we’re on our death bed staring up at the ceiling and the nurses are saying, “He doesn’t look too bad,” and the families are all gathered around you, you’re going to have those memories are going to be cherished and locked in there and no one ever take those away from you. You’re not going to have anybody ever foreclose on your memory.
I’d like to encourage people listening to this podcast that these expeditions challenge you and meeting new people is such an enriching thing. God has given me a great blessing. I traveled so many places to many countries and have had many experiences. It all started with being a cop and that one day when that guy was shooting at me, I got in an ambush and we had that shoot and he got killed. He didn’t realize that he changed my life. When I stood over that guy and saw him dead and I was holding this smoking shot gun, it impacted my heart because I’m a very caring person. I care about people deeply. I tested very high for mercy. It’s hard to test 99% mercy when you’re a cop, because you never write tickets and you let everybody go. That impacted me. Maybe that’s why I’ve been out there trying to help many people that are suffering as well in this world.
People may have a notion of the life and the travel and the adventure and stuff. What do you think the biggest misconception is about when you’re traveling and when you’re doing this?
I signed a bunch autographs, I gave a talk and people are getting their selfies with me and signing autographs. The biggest misconception is that I know what I’m talking about. I don’t. Nobody knows. I’m sure from the highest rulers, they get up in the morning and they’re brushing their teeth and looking in the mirror and they’re seeing a guy. They’re saying, “Nobody realizes that I’m just an imposter.” I go out there and try to do the best with what I know. I realize that I have much more to learn and that there’s much more I don’t know. When you start thinking you know all, that’s when you’re really going to get in trouble.”
I’ll tell you a little story. I was climbing up Iraq once, and the Kurds were up there and we had to come down the mountain on a different side. I had to come down in the darkness and I couldn’t even see. It was pitch black and we could not put on flashlights because we didn’t want the government to see us and shoot us. They had helicopters. We came down at night and it was the roughest experience in my life and I almost fell off cliffs several times in the darkness, actually put my hand on the rump of the horses, because they can see it night. I could feel from the flexing of the muscles when they’re ready to jump down and how far they jumped in and I jumped in the darkness and followed them. This horse literally dragged me down a hill for six hours until the sun came up. I came back and I should’ve had 50 broken bones and more cuts and contusions. I had a few little bumps and bruises, but nothing major. I come back home, I come in the door after this trip and she goes, “I’m so happy to see you, but can you take out the trash?” I take the trash and I and I’m taking it down the driveway. There was some loose gravel on a driveway. I lived down here in Colorado and it was a little bit of a steep driveway.
I hit one little small rock and I slipped and fell. Iraq’s is considered to be one of the biggest mountains in the world, it has the steepest incline of any mountain in the world they say because you go straight up. It’s 600 square miles at this base. It’s a monster’s mountain. That didn’t hurt me. This little pebble in my driveway at home because it’s the little things in life that we don’t expect, when we get careless that hurts us. The big things don’t bother. We’re not going to go rob a bank. We’re not going to going to go out and do these big things. We’re careful not to do stupid big things. It’s the little things that sometimes we don’t tell the truth or we skimp and do this and do things that are not that moralistic there. Those are little pebbles in life. They can have you slip and fall. The small things in the night. We’re not paying attention; they are going to hurt us. I slipped and fell and shattered my elbow from that little pebble.
Do you have a quote that you like or use frequently?
It’s more of a quote than a poem. If you want me to recite it, it’s fifteen minutes long. The poem is by Rudyard Kipling. The last line in the book says, “Din! Din! Din! You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din! Though I’ve belted you and flayed you, by the living Gawd that made you, you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!”That caused quite a stir in Victoria, England because there is this army officer saying that this black water bear was better man than he was. I’ve always liked that because I always try to say no matter what people look like or where they’re from, what color they are, or what economic range they could be, that they could be better than you, even though you’re very successful person. There are people around us all the time that are anonymous. The waiter that comes up could turn out to be the one that cures cancer. He’s just putting himself through college. What I try to do is treat everybody as better than I am. I try to beat everybody, whether we’re at the governor’s mansion getting served on silver trays or dealt down here in the barrio. You need to treat everybody the same.
I did touch on the governor’s mansion, and the reason you were there?
Jim Irwin, the eighth man walked on the moon.
He was being inducted into the Space Hall of fame.
His favorite saying was, “The man walking on the moon is not as important as Jesus walking on earth.” That was his favorite saying. I always remember what he said. He put things in perspective.
We’ve been chatting for a while and I was thinking about advice you might offer. You’ve led, whether it’s been an expedition or your company or tour groups, and there are other folks out there that might be interested in what advice you might offer to a leader that’s been put into the role of leader for the first time. What advice would you offer?
You have to be the leader, so you have to take responsibility. When things don’t go right, you’ve got to say, “I’m sorry, I messed up and I didn’t get it. I hope you give me a little grace here.” You have to be a leader. You have to be strong. When I go on these expeditions, I have to be strong. There’s no whining, there’s no complaining, and I don’t have anybody doing anything that I’m not willing to do, or I’m the last one to get a meal and the last one to step off the bus. I’m the last one when we had a ship wreck to get off the boat, we got a shipwreck off the coast of Malta. Those are the signs of good leaders. A leader has to be strong and, and a lot of times strength gets confused with arrogance, but you have to be willing to take the risks on that one. You’ve got to be strong as a leader and you’ve got to have that character strength. You’ve got to make decisions and say, “I take responsibility, but I expect you to carry the water also. If you’re on this expedition, you’re on this expedition.” It’s not a democracy. We’re not going to have a vote on every decision we make because if it doesn’t go well, I’m willing to take the responsibility. You’ve got to be a leader in a lot of times. That’s not a democracy,
If I was to take and talk to your friends, and if I could talk to Jim Irwin and they were saying that you had this one thing that you were best at, what would your friends and colleagues that you’re best at? How do you use that?
There’s what I hope they would say about me. I have a guide that’s on my board that has been with me in the last five expeditions to Ethiopia. He’s a Brigadier General Norman Anderson, great guy. He’s on my board and on these expeditions. As a general, he had the drivers and the doors open and stuff and he’s gets treated like everybody else on these trips. No favoritism. He said, “Bob, I’ve seen you now on for over years and years on all these expeditions. I’ve never seen you treat anybody better or look at them, you treat everybody the same. I’m a general and I watch you to see. I see you out of the corner of my eyes, there’s a woman over there with leprosy there a kid over there with AIDS, and you’re holding this kid and you’re stuffing money in his pocket and saying, “Go home and buy a meal for your family.” That’s what I hope people see in me, is that no matter who the person is, I treat them. I treat people with dignity.
The man walking on the moon is not as important as Jesus walking on earth.
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Bob, it’s been a real treat to be welcomed in your home. While we’re sitting here, we’re looking at all the golf course in the sun is heading south. The herd of deer have run back and forth unbeknownst to you. I appreciate you taking the time.
The one negative thing is I do cheat at golf, but I tell people that when we start the game that I cheat. I don’t know if that’s exactly a cheating, that might be a fair warning. It’s a fair warning.
I appreciate it. Thanks much for taking the time.
Thank you for having me.
About Bob Cornuke
Bob Cornuke–a former police investigator and SWAT team member–is a biblical investigator, international explorer and author of nine books. He has participated in over fifty expeditions around the world searching for lost locations described in the Bible. These journeys include searching for Mount Sinai in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, looking for the remains of Noah’s Ark in Turkey with astronaut Jim Irwin (the eighth man to walk on the moon) and researching ancient Assyrian and Babylonian flood accounts in Iran.
He has followed ancient accounts of the Ark of the Covenant from Israel to Egypt and across Ethiopian highlands, and, most recently, his research team found the probable location of Paul’s shipwreck off the coast of Malta. This find has resulted in the accounting of what many are saying are all four anchors, as described in Acts: 27. His most recent adventure is sparking international controvercy. Chronicled in his new book “Temple”, Bob makes the assurtion that the Temples of Solomon and Herod are located in the City of David and not on the traditional temple mount platform.
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