Considered a natural wonder, the Dead Sea is famous for it’s super saline waters allowing visitors to float effortlessly on it’s surface and the healing power of the mineral rich mud which is used in beauty products all over the world. But there is also a lot more to this amazing site. Here we show you 10 interesting facts that you probably don’t know about the Dead Sea.
The shores of the Dead Sea are deep in the Great Rift Valley – at 423 m below sea level! This is the main reason why it ends up being so salty, it’s only tributary is the River Jordan, flowing down the Jordan Valley, but as the Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth (and water cannot flow up!) the water then has no where to go. Then due to the heat and eternal sunshine of the area the water evaporates leaving the salt behind.
This valley is just a small section of the Great Rift Valley, the geological fault system of South West Asia and East Africa. It extends approx. 3,000 miles from Northern Syria to central Mozambique. It is still quite an active tectonic zone with regular (but small) earthquakes in the region. It is believed that these earthquakes caused the area to drop below sea level.
The Dead Sea is 50 miles long and 11 miles wide, surrounded by Jordan, Israel and Palestine. The size of it means it is technically a large, land locked lake, but usually gets called a ‘sea’ due to its salty waters.
Through out the ages it has had many names – ‘The Sea of Death’, ‘The Stinking Lake’, Lake Asphalities (see point 8), Also in Arabic ‘Al-Bahr-al-Mayyit’ translates to Dead Sea. The name came from early visitors to the area 100o’s of years ago – they noticed that nothing lived in the waters – there are no fish or plants – hence it was Dead. However, in the last decade scientists have discovered that there is in fact life in the Dead Sea! Microscopic bacteria and fungi have been found!
4. The water is not the saltiest on Earth!
Although it maybe the most famous of the salty lakes – it is in fact only the 3rd saltiest in the world. On average the Dead Sea has a salinity of 33% (compared to the Mediterranean 3.5%!), while Lake Assal in Djibouti has been recorded at 35% and Don Juan Pond in the McMurdo Dry Valley in Antarctica is 44%!
Over 3 million years ago the Jordan Valley and most of Israel and Jordan was repeatedly flooded by the Mediterranean sea. Leaving behind sand and mineral deposits. Over 1000s of years these deposits grew in height creating the land locked lake. After this continued earthquakes caused by the Great Rift Valley (see point 1) resulted in the lake dropping in elevation, resulting it being below seal level.
The Dead Sea has attracted visitors for thousands of years. King Herod was known to visit it regularly, but it was Queen Cleopatra that first ordered health resorts to be built along it’s shore line, and factories to make cosmetic products from the mineral rich mud.
Today the Dead Sea area is a major centre for health research and medical treatments not only because of the mineral content of the mud and water but also UV radiation from the suns rays is reduced, the higher atmospheric pressure at the lower altitudes means the air is enriched with oxygen and there is a very low level of pollen and other allergens, in the same area there are also many thermal hot springs also known for their rejuvenating properties. Many of the hotels along the coastline have their own spas and medical treatment centres offering remedies to many skin problems including psoriasis and eczema plus other conditions such as asthma, arthritis and hypertension.
Everybody knows about the Dead Sea Salts and Mud cosmetic products sold world wide, but did you know that the Dead Sea is also one of the worlds largest producers of potash (potassium chloride) used in fertilisers, as well as many other chemicals such as elemental bromine, caustic soda, magnesium metal, sodium chloride and surprisingly asphalt! From deep seeps, the Dead Sea constantly spits up small pebbles and blocks of bitumen and asphalt. The Egyptians used to import lots of this black substance from the Dead Sea to be used in mummification.
In 1930 its surface was 1,050 km2 and its level was 390 m below sea level, today it has dropped nearly 50 m! The main reason for this is due to an increase in agriculture in the Jordan Valley. The farmers redirect the flow of the Jordan River for irrigation purposes. Also a major factor is the chemical industries that use large evaporation pans to extract its products. http://aboveandbelow.info/10-about-the-dead-sea/In January this year it was estimated that the level of water is dropping by 1 m every year – you can see in the photo on the right the salt rings where the water level has decreased year after year. Scientists believe that if this rate continues, the whole Dead Sea could disappear completely by 2050.
That’s right – you don’t have to be based in the North of Jordan to experience this magnificent place for yourself. It is possible to enjoy it on a day tour from Aqaba. 3 hours drive north along the scenic Dead Sea Highway brings you to the Dead Sea Resorts. Choose between a beach club or a luxury hotel and spa to spend the day relaxing and rejuvenating.