The Degree of Royal Ark Mariner, although worked under the aegis of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons, and requiring every candidate to be a Mark Master Mason, has no historical connection whatsoever with that Degree. Mark Grand Lodge’s rule over the Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of Royal Ark Mariners is simply a quirk of fate. It stands entirely alone and totally unrelated to any other Degree in Freemasonry.
The history of the Degree is an obscure and difficult subject and the number of historical facts that have emerged over the years have indeed been small. As a result the precise origins of the Royal Ark Mariner Degree are unknown. The Degree is around two hundred years old and, as its name suggests, has a nautical flavour taking for its setting the circumstances leading up to the Great Flood and the steps taken by Noah to build the Ark by which mankind was preserved from perishing in the ‘Universal Deluge’.
Like the Mark Master Mason’s Degree, which is based on the fact of the construction of the Temple at Jerusalem, so the Degree of Royal Ark Mariner is also based on an actual happening, the Great Flood, as recorded in the Bible and as verified in 1929 by the archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley, who not only found clear evidence of the Flood, but established that it had occurred some 6,000 years previously.
The legend of Noah, his sons, the Ark and the Deluge were enacted in the Mystery Plays of the Seventeenth Century and continued as catechisms in many of the early Masonic rituals. By the 1750s there was a Degree of Noachites or Prussian Knights. However, the first authentic record of the Degree appears in the minutes of a meeting held in Bath in 1790. Numerous records exist throughout the country of the Ceremony of Elevation being performed since that date.