Aug. 16, 2012 — -- Former Baywatch star Donna D'Errico is determined to continue her search for Noah's Ark, despite suffering injuries and having to cut her trip to Turkey short.
D'Errico, 44, said that journeying to Turkey's Mount Ararat to search for the Ark has been a "lifelong dream" of hers. The Bible says that Noah's Ark came to rest at Mount Ararat and D'Errico has wanted to search for it ever since she saw a movie about the Ark as a child.
"We all have childhood fascinations that sometimes subside over time, but this one never did," D'Errico told ABCNews.com. "The key word is 'search,' not 'find.' I don't have any wild notion that I'll be the one that finds Noah's Ark."
In fact, D'Errico is fully aware of the strangeness of hearing "Baywatch" and "Noah's Ark" in the same sentence.
"If I didn't know me, I would think it was funny. You know, 'Baywatch babe goes hunting for Noah's Ark,'" she said. "I know what the mentality is, what the general consensus is, that everybody thinks it's hilarious. But really and honestly, I don't even care. I know what I'm doing and I know that this is my lifelong dream and I believe in the Bible."
The actress has been planning and preparing for her trip for a long time. Paperwork and permits are required to climb the treacherous mountain as well as professional climbing skills.
"There are a lot of dangers in climbing Mount Ararat," she said. "There are holes there, hidden crevices, vicious sheep dogs…the elements alone there are dangerous because the weather can suddenly be a blizzard or a hail storm and people can get caught out in it."
In addition to the environmental dangers, D'Errico said the mountain is also dangerous because of tensions and clashes between the Turkish military and rebels who live on the mountain. Climbers have been kidnapped on the mountain before.
"If they found out that there's someone, even of minor notoriety on the mountain, it could put the whole group in serious danger," she said.
And to D'Errico's great frustration, that is exactly what happened after she posted photos online of her battered face and body following a fall on the mountain.
Her group was about 10,000 feet up, she said, when D'Errico lost her footing. She referred to American astronaut James Irwin when trying to describe the mountain.
"He likened climbing Mount Ararat to climbing a mountain of bowling balls and now I understand what he meant," she said.
Irwin made several expeditions to Mount Ararat in his lifetime and was also injured there during a 1982 trip.
"I stepped on [a rock] that caused all of them to give way underneath me," D'Errico said. "They kind of rolled me over on my face and I was just fighting with probably three tons of rocks. One of my climbing partners grabbed my pack and prevented me from going over the edge."
D'Errico did not break any bones or lose any teeth, but she suffered cuts and bruises to her face and body.
"I got beat up a little bit, but I'm not going to make it into more than it was," she said. "I had to dust myself off and continue on my expedition because there's no time to waste up there. We had a scheduled and I had to carry on, so I did."
But D'Errico did not expect all of the attention the photos would garner online. Once it became known that she and her group were on the mountain and filming a documentary, her guides and group determined that it was no longer safe for them to be there.
They left the mountain and D'Errico was put on the first flight back to Los Angeles.
"I hated to have all that work kind of go to waste," she said ruefully. "I fully intend to go back as soon as I can get another permit. We're going to go back and finish."
D'Errico said that in addition to searching for Noah's Ark, she was there to try to find information about Donald MacKenzie, a man who disappeared on the mountain in September 2010 while searching for the Ark.
MacKenzie disappeared without a trace, D'Errico said. All of his equipment and gear disappeared when he did. All that remained was the white van he had parked at his guide's house. The guide fled soon after.
D'Errico said that MacKenzie's family needs closure and she was filming a documentary about him during her trip.
She returned to Los Angeles and her two children on Wednesday night but fully intends on returning to Turkey as soon as she can.
"I've given myself Ark fever," D'Errico said. "Right now, my priorities are my faith, my children, finishing my expeditions and getting the documentary done about Donald."
"I'm 44 years old and I'm at the point in my life that I don't really care what people say or think," she said.