A very long time ago, the African and Arabian tectonic plates started moving away from each other.
As the two landmasses broke apart, the space between them became a ditch or graben. Throughout millennia, this “graben” was flooded by water from the ocean.
But gradually, the ditch started rising above due to further tectonic activity. As it eventually rose above the ocean, the flooding stopped. But the water inside it remained. Millions of years later, this water-filled graben became known as the Dead Sea: the sea of death.
But what is so special about the Dead Sea? Out of all the lakes in the world, why is this lake so popular? Why is it called the Dead Sea, anyway?
If these questions are lingering in your mind, it’s time to get answers, and we will answer them with facts. Read on to learn about ten baffling facts about the Dead Sea you must know.
You can’t drown in the Dead Sea.
Don’t know how to swim? Don’t worry; the Dead Sea is the perfect place for you!
The Dead Sea is one of the few water bodies on earth where you can float without swimming. This unique property of the Dead Sea is one of its most interesting characteristics.
The reason? Physics (of course, it’s no magic). The Dead Sea is VERY salty – about ten times as salty as normal seawater. As a result, the water here is much denser than the human body. Hence, you’ll float as soon as you jump into it.
The Dead Sea is not completely dead.
If people can’t drown in the Dead Sea, isn’t the name “Dead Sea” ironic? Well, not really.
The Dead Sea gets its name from another strange characteristic. No animal or plant can live in the Dead Sea. The reason is salt, again.
The waters of the Dead Sea are so salty– 342 grams in 1 liter– that most organisms can’t survive here. In other words, you’ll find no fish, sharks, dolphins, or even seaweed in the Dead Sea. However, some forms of bacteria and algae can tolerate the high salt content and hence survive.
The Dead Sea has magical benefits!
No, we aren’t the ones saying it. But thousands of people can vouch for this claim.
The salt of the Dead Sea doesn’t support life, but it benefits your body in many ways. The water is rich in minerals like Magnesium, Calcium, and Potassium. A 2005 study reported that the Magnesium salts present in the Dead Sea treat dry skin and increase hydration.
That’s not all. The black mud of the Dead Sea is also popular for treating various skin and bone conditions. That’s why you can find people sunbathing with mud applied all over their bodies.
The Dead Sea shore is the lowest point on land.
The Dead Sea is special not only in its chemical composition but also geographically. It is the lowest water body on earth.
The surface of the Dead Sea lies about 430 meters below sea level. As a result, the shores of the lake lie at the lowest point on land. Moreover, a depth of 298 meters makes the seabed even lower– about 728 meters below sea level.
Just to avoid confusion, the Dead Sea shore is the lowest point on land. The lowest point on earth is a point called Challenger Deep in the Pacific Ocean. It has a depth of about 10,930 meters!
The Dead Sea spans two countries.
The Dead Sea is not as large as other landlocked water bodies in the world. In fact, it isn’t even among the ten largest lakes.
Still, this salty lake lies across two countries. The 1994 Treaty Line runs along the Jordan River and the middle of the Dead Sea, separating the two countries. The eastern half of the sea belongs to Jordan, while the western part is a part of Israel. The Jordan River– flowing from the north– is also the main source of water for the Dead Sea.
The Egyptians used Dead Sea Asphalt for mummification.
Besides many minerals, the Dead Sea is a source of a rather unexpected substance: asphalt! The thick, black, semi-solid material occasionally sprouts from the sea bed and can be seen floating on the surface.
The Egyptians were among the first to realize the importance of this product. Mummies dating back to 1000 BC contain asphalt from the Dead Sea.
But why did the mummy-makers start importing asphalt from so far away? There are two possible reasons. An asphalt layer over a mummy kept bacteria, fungi, insects, and moisture away. Moreover, it also slowed down decay.
The Dead Sea has many names.
Most of us know the Dead Sea by just one name. However, the water body has a lot of other names that have been there for centuries.
The Dead Sea is known by a host of names in Israel and Jordan. Most commonly, the lake is known as Salt Lake for obvious reasons. The Arabic speakers call the place Al-Baḥr Al-Mayyit, which means Sea of Death. The Hebrew name is Yam HaMelaẖ or Salt Sea.
That’s not all. It also has names like Lake of Sodom, Primordial Sea, Sea of Arabah, Mare Mortuum (Latin), and Lake Asphaltites. There are many more names, but you get the point!
The Dead Sea appears in the Bible (many times!)
Here’s one of the mind-boggling Dead Sea facts:
While the Dead Sea is popular today due to its many unusual characteristics, it was also important in Biblical times! In fact, it was a major religious heritage site.
The Sea of Arabah appears several times at different places in the Bible. According to the Bible, several Jewish tribes– such as the Essenes– lived in the caves near the region. The story of David also mentions a place near the Dead Sea where David hid from King Saul.
Other stories include that of Lot’s wife, whom God converted into a pillar of salt near the Mount of Sodom.
Biblical scrolls have been found near the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea has been a culturally important area for much of history. But the significance of this place surged dramatically with the sensational discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
In 1946-47, some shepherds discovered a set of ancient manuscripts inside earthen jars in a cave near the Dead Sea. In the following years, the scrolls got international attention, and by 1956, many more such fragments in twelve such caves were found.
The scrolls contain several revolutionary records from Jesus’s time. You see, the Dead Sea has much more to offer beyond salty water!
The Dead Sea is dying.
The fact that the Dead Sea doesn’t support life makes sense. But how about the fact that the Dead Sea itself is dying?
This is not an amazing fact like the nine others we discussed, but it is equally baffling. The Dead Sea is slowly dying. The water level is drying up at a rate of 4 feet annually. The shoreline is receding, and the surface temperature is rising by 0.6°C per year. Moreover, the inflow from the Jordan River has decreased dramatically.
What’s happening with the Dead Sea is an alarming effect of climate change and over-exploitation by humans. Let’s hope it changes for the better.
Ready to float in the dead waters?
The Dead Sea is exotic and amazing, full of features and facts that can baffle you. But above everything else, this landlocked water body is an excellent place to be in.
Through this blog, we tried to present some amazing facts about this Biblical Sea of Salt. However, none of these facts matter much until you experience them firsthand! So, remember to bookmark this blog; it will come in handy when you finally visit the Dead Sea.
If our Dead Sea facts have indeed managed to baffle your minds, we’d suggest you take a look at our Amazon Rainforest facts blogs, too. It’ll be truly worth your time!