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The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea, despite its name, is actually a salt lake located between Israel and Jordan. The surface of the lake is at an elevation of 1,312 feet (400m) below sea level, making it the lowest water surface on earth. The Dead Sea is some 47 miles (76km) long and has a maximum width of approximately 10 miles (16km). The total area of the lake is roughly 405 square miles (1,049km²).

Above: Driving eastwards from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, despite being miles from the coast, the sign indicates the point where the road is at sea level. It then continues further down, eventually reaching the lake, which has the lowest elevation anywhere to be found on Earth.

Geologically speaking, the Dead Sea is part of a northern portion of the Rift Valley (mostly associated with east Africa). To the east of the lake rises the high plateau of Moab, some 4,400 feet (1,340m) above the sea. To the west is the plateau of Judaea, which rises to approximately half that height. The southern part of the lake is marked by shallow waters, less than 20 feet (6m) deep, contrasting with the northern part of the lake, which reaches up to 1,312 feet (400m) in depth. Most of the water entering the lake comes from the Jordan River at its northern end; several smaller streams also enter the lake, mainly from the east. Being the lowest point on Earth and much lower than the coast, the Dead Sea has no outlet for water to flow; the fresh water entering the lake is carried off solely by evaporation in the hot desert climate. As a result of this, the water in the Dead Sea is nearly six times saltier than the oceans. Some 1000 feet down from the surface, the composition of the lake comprises about 27% solid substances, including sodium chloride (common salt), as well as many other halide salts. The Dead Sea provides a natural source of materials which are extracted commercially. These include potash, bromine, gypsum and common salt, as well as other chemical products. Apart from a few species of microbes, the Dead Sea contains no life; it is too saline for fish.

Above: The Dead Sea as seen from the western shores, approximately midpoint

Because of the lake’s salinity, it is much denser than the water in the oceans and this means that the human body easily floats on the surface – a relaxing way to bathe. Alongside mineral-rich mud on the shores, a number of popular beach and health resorts have sprung up along here. The waters contain twenty times more bromine as the ocean (a component of many sedatives and a nerve-relaxant), fifteen times more magnesium (counteracts skin allergies and clears the bronchial passages) and ten times more iodine (known to have several benefits). Furthermore, because of the low elevation, the clean air here has the world’s highest barometric pressure with 10% more oxygen than the air at sea level. The photographs in the thumbnail gallery below were taken at one such resort, Kalia (Kalya) Beach. This is the most northerly of the beach resorts along the western side of the lake in the West Bank. Being the lowest point on earth, amongst other things, the resort here boasts the world’s lowest bar. Some other photographs taken along the shores of the Dead Sea are also included [Click on an image to enlarge]:

The Dead Sea has biblical connections and the sites of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are traditionally held to be in this area. The Essenes (a sect of Second Temple Judaism which flourished from the 2nd century BC to the 1st century AD) produced the manuscripts known today as the Dead Sea Scrolls where they lived on the north-western shore of the lake. Also on the western shore is the mountain-top site of the Jewish Zealot's last stand against the Romans in 70-72 at Masada. More about the Dead Sea Scrolls may be found on this website on the Jerusalem webpage in the section on the Israel Museum, the location where they are housed today (Link Here).

Related Pages on this Web Site:

Golan Heights and Mount Bental
Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias)

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