5 Facts about the Dead Sea: Is it dying out?

It is 304 m (997 ft) deep, which makes it the deepest hyper saline lake in the entire world. The lake is one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water and has a salinity of 34.2% (2011). It’s time for another 5 Fact Friday, so here are 5 more facts about the Dead Sea:

1. Swimming or Floating

One reason the Dead Sea is such a popular tourist attraction is  because of the water’s ‘floating’ quality. Rather than taking a relaxing swim, your body will simply float in the water. This flotation is due to the high salinity and water density of 1.24 kg/litre, which creates a buoyancy effect. The lake’s water is much saltier than ocean water. This density actually makes swimming more of a struggle than it normally would be in ‘regular’ lakes.

2. Harsh Environment

This high level of salinity doesn’t only supply tourists with endless afternoons of floating and fun, but also makes the lake a very harsh environment for plants and animals. This inability of plants and animals to live and flourish explains the origin of the lake’s name. The Dead Sea basin has been dry since 1980, but sometimes floods would reduce the 35% salt content of the lake to 30% or lower. These floods would temporarily support life during rainy winters. Once, baceria and alga even turned the Dead Sea a deep red.

3. The Death of the Dead Sea

Unfortunately, the Dead Sea itself seems to be suffering a slow death. The water level is dropping by an average of 1 m every year. Experts estimate the water drop since the 1950s is more than 40 m in total. The Jordan River is the only major water source flowing into the Dead Sea, but there appears to be more outgoing than incoming water. The climate doesn’t exactly stop the lake from drying out either, since the area has year-round sunny skies, dry air, and summer averages between 32 and 39 °C (90 and 102 °F). Just a few days ago, Israel and Jordan jointly presented a £500 million plan to dig a channel and pump seawater into the Dead Sea to save the famous lake.

4. Healing Properties

Aside from its floating properties, the Dead Sea has a long history as a place of healing. In fact, the lake was one of the world’s first health resorts, apparently even for Herod the Great (37–4 BCE). The dead sea has long been appreciated for the mineral content in the water, as well as the general absence of pollens and allergens in the atmosphere. The lake has also been the supplier of products like asphalt (for Egyptian mummification), ingredients for fertilizers, cosmetics, and herbal sachets. Using asphalt in mummification probably helped fight the decay of flesh and prevented insects and fungi from reaching to the body.

5. Types of Therapy

The health benefits of the Dead Sea basin’s climate has popularised several types of therapies. One is (1) Climatotherapy, which prescribes the benefits of  climatic factors like low humidity, high temperatures, and an abundance of sunshine. Climatotherapy may be helpful in cases of psoriasis. Another therapy is (2) Heliotherapy, which supposedly exploits the biological effects of the sun’s radiation. (3) Thalassotherapy is yet another type of popular therapy, consisting of bathing in Dead Sea water and applying mud to the skin and joints.

Sources: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

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