Few bodies of water hold as much significant historic, geographic, and religious importance as the Dead Sea. Ancient Egyptians and Jewish and Islamic traditions alone have put the Dead Sea on the map. It also stands as a unique location for health and spa treatments, and tourists love to go there for a nice day at the beach. Here are 25 Truly Fascinating Facts About The Dead Sea.
It's called "dead" because of its high salinity.
High saline levels make it impossible for plants, fish, and other larger organisms to live in the Dead Sea, hence the word “dead.” However, smaller organisms like bacteria have been found in craters at the bottom of the lake.
It's not really a sea.
It may be called the Dead Sea, but it’s technically an endorheic salt lake with the Jordan river flowing into it. It retains all the water and does not flow into any other lakes, seas, or oceans.
It's 9.6 times as salty as the ocean.
Speaking of the high salinity, it has so much concentrated salt that the entire ocean’s salt is like a drop in the bucket compared to it. Even though freshwater from the Jordan river runs into it, that water has nowhere to go and is forced to evaporate, creating a cycle of highly salinated water.
Rocks dissolved by rainwater make it so salty.
So, why is the Dead Sea so salty? The short answer is rainwater. All rainwater has certain acids when carbon monoxide combines with water. Over time this rain breaks down the rocks, turning them into ions such as sodium and chloride, also known as salt.
It's the lowest elevation on land.
At 420 meters below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest elevation on land.
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It has a very unique climate.
Surrounded by an arid and desert landscape, the Dead Sea has approximately 330 sunny days a year with low humidity and little rainfall. The temperatures range from 60 to 100 degrees throughout the year. But what makes it unique is that it’s the only place on Earth where you can sunbathe for long periods with little to no sunburn because of the three natural layers of protection it has against UV rays.
The thick salt allows people to easily float.
If you’re not a fan of swimming, then the Dead Sea might be up your alley. The water is so thick with salt that people can effortlessly float without sinking.
It's nearly impossible to swim in the Dead Sea
Back to that floating thing, it should be mentioned that swimming is essentially impossible. It’s like having a floatation device on you at all times.
People still drown in the Dead Sea.
This might be a bit of a head scratcher, but despite the fact that you can easily float in the Dead Sea, you can still drown. In fact, the Dead Sea was named the second most deadly place to swim in Israel. It’s difficult to move easily within the lake, making it tricky if you end up in a dangerous position. Also, if you drink too much of the salt water, it can deplete your electrolytes and be hard on your kidneys, essentially poisoning you with too much salt.
It's the deepest salt lake on Earth.
The lowest part of the Dead Sea is 2,300 feet, making it the deepest salt lake on Earth.
It took millions of years for the Dead Sea to form.
Millions of years ago, after the Mediterranean Sea receded from Syria and Israel, heavy deposits of shale, clay, sandstone, rock salt, and gypsum rushed into the Dead Sea. Then, due to precipitation, the lake shrank to what we know of it today.
Ancient Egyptians used it to embalm mummies.
As we all know, Egyptians had very specific and unique burial rituals involving mummies. One substance they used for this practice was asphalt to embalm the dead before wrapping them in bandages. The Dead Sea naturally provides asphalt, so they would frequently come to the area to get it.
In Islamic teachings, it stands as God's punishment.
According to the Quran, the Dead Sea is the site of Sodom and home of the Prophet Lot. Because of their wicked behavior, God turned the cities upside down and rained down brimstone on them. The result was the Dead Sea. Though Lot preached God’s message, his wife did not believe and was turned into a pillar of salt.
There's a prophecy that it will be made fresh.
In the Bible, prophets claimed that one day the Dead Sea would be made fresh. According to recent scientific research, pockets of fresh water at the bottom of the Dead Sea have opened up. Some believe this could be the beginning of that prophecy.
Herod the Great used it as a vacation get away.
Ruling over Israel at the time in 40 BC, Herod the Great built a fortress on top of Masada right by the Dead Sea. He used it as a vacation resort to get away when things got dangerous and cold back home. When Jewish Zealots overtook the garrison there, they found enough resources to last them a lifetime.
The area was a refuge to King David.
Before he was King of Israel, David continuously was on the run from King Saul because he challenged his reign. In the book of Samuel, it says that David took refuge at Ein Gedi which is right next to the Dead Sea.
The air contains extra oxygen.
Thanks to the unique climate, the Dead Sea has extra oxygen and bromine levels which provide a nice, relaxing effect.
Ancient Greeks called it Lake Asphaltites.
Ancient Greeks attributed the lake more for its production of asphalt than salt, calling it Lake Asphaltites, which was the common name of the time.
It's a popular place for health research.
Since ancient times, people thought the Dead Sea to be good for your health. Ever since it’s been a haven and popular spot for scientists and medical professionals to study how it can help cure skin related diseases.
The salt and mud from the Dead Sea is used for spa treatments.
Spa resorts surround the Dead Sea area, providing a place for people to treat their skin with the salt and mud. Dead Sea Salt is also a popular ingredient in many lotions and creams.
It's used to mine potash.
A fertilizer used since ancient times, potash is a water soluble form of potassium that is mined out of the Dead Sea. Today, it’s a billion dollar enterprise.
It's an archaeological gold mine.
In 1947, a shepherd stumbled upon one of the most significant archeological finds of the 20th century, the Dead Sea Scrolls. Providing hundreds of well preserved Biblical and non-biblical manuscripts, it helped reshape historic views on religion.
Mark Twain visited and wrote about the dead sea.
In his book The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain wrote about his visit to the Dead Sea, saying, “A silence broods over the scene that is depressing to the spirits. It makes one think of funerals and death.” Clearly, he wasn’t a fan.
The worlds lowest road runs from Israel to the west bank.
Highway 90 in Israel to the West Bank runs right along the Dead Sea, making it the lowest road in the world. It’s also considered a highly dangerous road with lots of reported accidents.
It's drying up at an alarming rate.
The Dead Sea is drying up, and evidence shows it could be completely dry in 50 years if nothing is done. Israel and Jordan have partnered to pump water into the lake from the Red Sea to stop this from happening.
Photos: 23. Israeltourism via flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, 22. Adiel lo, Dead sea shore, CC BY-SA 3.0, 20. Ian and Wendy Sewell, Dead Sea-18, CC BY-SA 3.0, 19. babeltravel, Dead Sea 21, CC BY 2.0, 18. Christian Haugen via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 16. David Shankbone, Dead Sea by David Shankbone, CC BY-SA 3.0, 14. Lldenke, McKittrick Tar Seep North of Highway 58, CC BY 3.0, 13. Disdero, SaltPillarDeadSea, CC BY-SA 2.5, 11. Use or reproduction of this image outside of Wikipedia must give the original photographer (Andrew Shiva) credit. Although not required, it would be appreciated if a message was left here indicating where this image was being used., Aerial view of Masada (Israel) 02, CC BY-SA 4.0, 9. Tiia Monto, Dead Sea salt, CC BY-SA 3.0, 7. israeltourism via flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0 , 6. momo via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 2. Ian and Wendy Sewell, Dead Sea-14, CC BY-SA 3.0, 1. NASA’s Earth Observatory, The Dead Sea 1972-2011 – NASA Earth Observatory, CC BY 2.0