The Dead Sea is a closed salt lake between Israel and Jordan.
Its surface and coast are at 422 m below sea level, and this level is continuously decreasing. The Dead Sea lies in the intercontinental hollow formed during the split of Eurasia and Africa. The coast of the lake is the lowest land on Earth.
The Dead Sea is considered to be one of the most saline water reservoirs on Earth, and salinity reaches 33.7%. The lake is 67 km long, 18 km wide at its widest point, and a maximum depth of 378 m.
The nearest major cities are Jerusalem, 19 km., Amman (Jordan) 48 km., Tel Aviv 84 km., Eilat 360 km. On the west side is highway 90 to Eilat.
The first written mention of the name “Dead Sea” was found in the writings of the ancient Greek scientist Pausanias, who was one of the first to study the Dead Sea’s seawaters.
The sea is called “dead sea” because it was believed that because of the high salt content, neither fish nor other organisms could live in it (except for some types of bacteria at the mouth of the Jordan River). However, in recent years, XX – early XXI centuries, about 70 species of oomycetes and higher fungi were found in it, capable of tolerating the maximum salinity of this reservoir.
Several drying streams and the Jordan River flow into the Dead Sea. Over the past 40 years alone, the volume of the watercourse has decreased from 1.43 billion cubic meters per year up to 100 million.
In the vicinity of the Dead Sea, the famous Qumran manuscripts were also found. These are more than 600 manuscripts proving that the Jewish sect of the Essenes was still in the second century. Before Christmas, she professed principles surprisingly similar to the gospel commandments. A Bedouin boy accidentally found the first scrolls with manuscripts from Qumran in 1947.
Around the Dead Sea were located in the biblical cities of Sodom and Homorrah.
The Bible tells of these cities mired in sins and vices. Lot, a God-fearing and virtuous man, was warned that the cities would be destroyed in atonement for these sins and that he and his family should flee. But in no case should anyone close to Lot be looked back. Unfortunately, Lotova’s wife could not resist the temptation to take a last look back and, according to legend, turned into a large pillar of salt, and to this day, standing near the modern city of Sedom.
Salinity and Composition of Water
The mineral content in water reaches 33%, an average of 28% (for comparison in the Mediterranean Sea – 4%).
As mentioned above, the Dead Sea is one of the world’s most saline lakes, along with Lake Assal in East Africa (almost 35%) and Lake Elton in the Volgograd Region (20-50%).
It is difficult to call the water of the Dead Sea “water.” It would be more correct to say “strong salt solution.” The mineralogical composition of the Dead Sea salt is significantly different from the salt composition of other seas. It contains about 50.8% of magnesium chloride, 14.4% of calcium chloride, 30.4% of sodium chloride, plus 4.4% of potassium chloride. There are few sulfates in salt, but relatively many bromides. This allowed the Dead Sea to become a unique medical resort, created by nature and attracting millions of tourists from all over the world.
In addition to the unique composition of mineral salts, the Dead Sea is also well known for its healing mud extracted from the bottom of this lake. The famous sludge sulfide mud of the Dead Sea is highly mineralized (up to 300 g/l), with a high content of bromine, iodine, hormone-like substances.
The Dead Sea consists of a larger, northern, basin, and a smaller, southern, mostly dry. From the first to the second, water is transported through individual channels through the isthmus. In the small Dead Sea basin, there are artificial evaporation pools, and on the shore, there is an industrial complex of Dead Sea enterprises.
In places, the water of the sea evaporated, leaving large blotches of salted, cracked Earth from heat and dry brown mountains stand behind them with sharp dusty rocks. Further north, these dry mountains turn red, sometimes blazing scarlet in the afternoon sun, and at the southern tip of the lake are salt pillars.
In the area of the Dead Sea, unusual biometeorological conditions. At this lowest point in the globe, an exceptionally thick layer of air. Together with a natural filter of water vapor and minerals rising from the surface of the water, it reflects harmful ultraviolet rays.
The Dead Sea – a strange place that creates a unique atmosphere; also, it is a quiet place where you can hardly hear a bird singing, and the constant evaporation of water envelops it with a usually mysterious haze.
Due to the high concentration of mineral salts and intense evaporation of the water, the Dead Sea often smells of sulfur, and the temperature here rarely drops below 40 ° C – all this does not contribute to the long contemplation of its shores.
A visit to the Dead Sea is an unforgettable pleasure, but some circumstances can overshadow the celebration of meeting this wonder of the world.
Over the past century, the natural resources of the Dead Sea are being developed with ever-increasing intensity. The industrial development of minerals and the use of 80% of the tributaries flowing into the Dead Sea led to a sharp drop in groundwater levels.
Over the past century, the water level has fallen by 25 m, and the destructive process is only progressing. Today, sea level falls on average by 1 m per year.
In 1977, due to drainage, the sea was divided into two parts, northern and southern.
The southern part of the Dead Sea is under the control of mineralogical plants and chemical factories. These enterprises mine bromine, potassium carbonate, and other minerals from the Dead Sea waters. The crystallization of salts occurs through evaporation. For these purposes, the southern part was turned into a system of interconnected basins. Thus, the natural process of water circulation in the Dead Sea was disrupted.
The current situation entails an imminent environmental disaster. Its first echoes are already palpable today. Lowering the groundwater level led to the formation of underground cavities and subsidence of the soil. In Israel and Jordan, there are about 1200 failures, the depth of which sometimes reaches 25 m. The greatest danger is represented by failures that form along roads and near residential complexes. A case of failure immediately was recorded after the passage of a tourist bus. Fortunately, none of the passengers were injured. Until now, three people have been the victims of failures.
In recent years, the situation has begun to threaten the tourism industry and has caused concern for both Israel and Jordan. Several projects were proposed to transfer the waters of the Red and Mediterranean Seas to the Dead.
Today, a joint Jordanian-Israeli project to transfer the waters of the Red Sea is in the modeling stage. Scientists are trying to predict the consequences of building such a canal and its impact on the ecology of the Gulf of Eilat. The cost of the project is 3-4 billion US dollars.
On the shore of the Dead Sea are kibbutzim Ein Gedi, Kaliya, Almog, and Mitzpe Shalem, as well as several national parks, hotels, and other tourist sites.