Beauty with Health
The Dead Sea is a salt lake lying between the countries of Jordan, Palestine and Israel. Its surface and shores are 427 metres (1,401 ft) below sea level, Earth's lowest elevation on land. The Dead Sea is 306 m (1,004 ft) deep, the deepest hyper saline lake in the world. It is one of the world's saltiest bodies of water (34.2% salinity in 2011). It is 9.6 times as salty as the ocean. This salinity makes for a harsh environment in which animals cannot flourish, hence its name. The Dead Sea is 50 kilometers (31 mi) long and 15 kilometers (9 mi) wide at its widest point. It lies in the Jordan Rift Valley, and its main tributary is the Jordan River.
The Dead Sea has attracted visitors from around the world for thousands of years. Biblically, it was a place of refuge for King David. It was one of the world's first health resorts (for Herod the Great), and it has been the supplier of a wide variety of products, from balms for Egyptian mummification to potash for fertilizers. People also use the salt and the minerals from the Dead Sea to create cosmetics and herbal sachets.
The Dead Sea seawater has a density of 1.240 kg/L, which makes swimming similar to floating. Tourists come from around the world to float in the Dead Sea water without any effort.
Names of the Dead Sea
Dead Sea, Also known as Bahr Lut, Eastern Sea, Lake of Asphalt, Salt Sea, “Sea of Sodom and Gomorrah,” Sea of the Arabah, Sea of the Devil, “Sea of the Plain,” Sea of Zoar, Stinking Lake
In Hebrew, the Dead Sea is "sea of salt" (Genesis 14:3). In the Bible, the Dead Sea is called the “Salt Sea”, the “Sea of the Arabah”, and the “Eastern Sea”. The designation "Dead Sea" never appears in the Bible. Other post-biblical names for the Dead Sea include the "Sea of Sodom" and the "Stinking Sea."
In prose sometimes the term "sea of death" is used, due to the scarcity of aquatic life there. In Arabic the Dead Sea is called "the Dead Sea", or less commonly "the Sea of Lot". Another historic name in Arabic was the "Sea of Zo’ar", after a nearby town in biblical times. The Greeks called it Lake Asphaltites "the Asphaltite sea".
In the Crusader period, it was sometimes called the "Devil's Sea." All of these names reflect something of the nature of this lake.
More than 3 million years ago, the area was repeatedly flooded with waters from the Red Sea. As the years went by, the waters collected and formed a narrow, crooked bay that wound through what is now the Jezreel Valley. The floods were sporadic through centuries of climate change and contributed to many geologic changes. Approximately 1 million years later, the land rose in such a way that the ocean could no longer flood the area, and the existing water stayed - this area became a lake, and what is now known as the Dead Sea.
People have studied and enjoyed the Dead Sea since the beginning of civilization. Jesus and John the Baptist were closely connected to the Dead Sea and the surrounding areas. It is mentioned twice in the bible, and in both instances it is predicted to come alive, so to speak - prophecies claim that the Dead Sea will one day be inhabitable by fish and plant life. The ancient Greeks recognized its magesty as well - Aristotle wrote about it; during the Egyptian conquest Cleopatra reportedly requested that land around the Dead Sea be reserved for cosmetic factories; the Nabateans discovered certain elements that would later be used in Egyptian embalming and mummification practices.
King Herod saw the area as a wonderful retreat, and built fortresses and palaces along the Western shores. The Essenes settled here as well, and later, in the 20th century, their writings were discovered and named the "Dead Sea Scrolls". The region attracted Greek Orthodox monks, who built monasteries there as places of worship and pilgrimage. Bedouin tribes have continuously lived in the area for thousands of years and could be considered the "natives of the land".
The beginnings of the Dead Sea are told of often in the Islamic tradition. The Dead Sea was the home of Lot (Prophet Lut) in the Hebrew scriptures. His tribe was known to partake in homosexual activities and therefore punished by Allah - in a big way. Allah sent angels down to Lut, and they raised the land around the prophet's tribe before throwing it down into the ground again, causing the area to cave in. This area became the lowest land on earth, and it is where the sinners were destroyed and the followers were saved.
The Dead Sea is still quite popular, as tourism has been booming there since the 1960's. People come from all over the world to admire the natural beauty of the sea, to swim and soak in the salty waters, and to feel the healing effects of this beautiful body of water. The history of the Dead Sea really is quite an interesting story.
The Dead Sea's climate offers year-round sunny skies and dry air. It has less than 50 millimetres (2 in) mean annual rainfall and a summer average temperature between 32 and 39 °C (90 and 102 °F). Winter average temperatures range between 20 and 23 °C (68 and 73 °F). The region has weakened ultraviolet radiation, particularly the UVB (erythrogenic rays). Given the heavier atmospheric pressure, the air has a slightly higher oxygen content (3.3% in summer to 4.8% in winter) as compared to oxygen density at sea level. Barometric pressures at the Dead Sea were measured between 796 and 799 mmHg and clinically compared with health effects at higher altitude. (This barometric measure is about 5% higher than sea level standard atmospheric pressure of 760 mmHg, which is the global ocean mean or ATM.) The Dead Sea affects temperatures nearby because of the moderating effect a large body of water has on climate. During the winter, sea temperatures tend to be higher than land temperatures, and vice versa during the summer months. This is the result of the water's mass and specific heat capacity. On average, there are 192 days above 30C (86F) annually.
Until the winter of 1978–79, when a major mixing event took place, the Dead Sea was composed of two stratified layers of water that differed in temperature, density, age, and salinity. The topmost 35 meters (115 ft) or so of the Dead Sea had an average salinity of 342 parts per thousand (in 2002), and a temperature that swung between 19 °C (66 °F) and 37 °C (99 °F). Underneath a zone of transition, the lowest level of the Dead Sea had waters of a consistent 22 °C (72 °F) temperature and complete saturation of sodium chloride (NaCl). Since the water near the bottom is saturated, the salt precipitates out of solution onto the sea floor.
Beginning in the 1960s, water inflow to the Dead Sea from the Jordan River was reduced as a result of large-scale irrigation and generally low rainfall. By 1975, the upper water layer was saltier than the lower layer. Nevertheless, the upper layer remained suspended above the lower layer because its waters were warmer and thus less dense. When the upper layer cooled so its density was greater than the lower layer, the waters mixed (1978–79). For the first time in centuries, the lake was a homogeneous body of water. Since then, stratification has begun to redevelop.
The mineral content of the Dead Sea is very different from that of ocean water. The exact composition of the Dead Sea water varies mainly with season, depth and temperature. In the early 1980s, the concentration of ionic species (in g/kg) of Dead Sea surface water was Cl− (181.4), Br− (4.2), SO42−(0.4), HCO3− (0.2), Ca2+ (14.1), Na+ (32.5), K+ (6.2) and Mg2+ (35.2). The total salinity was 276 g/kg.These results show that the composition of the salt, as anhydrous chlorides on a weight percentage basis, was calcium chloride (CaCl2) 14.4%, potassium chloride (KCl) 4.4%, magnesium chloride (MgCl2) 50.8% and sodium chloride (common salt, NaCl) 30.4%. In comparison, the salt in the water of mostoceans and seas is approximately 97% sodium chloride. The concentration of sulfate ions (SO42−) is very low, and the concentration of bromide ions (Br−) is the highest of all waters on Earth.
The salt concentration of the Dead Sea fluctuates around 31.5%. This is unusually high and results in a nominal density of 1.24 kg/l. Anyone can easily float in the Dead Sea because of natural buoyancy.
An unusual feature of the Dead Sea is its discharge of asphalt. From deep seeps, the Dead Sea constantly spits up small pebbles and blocks of the black substance. Asphalt coated figurines and bitumen coated Neolithic skulls from archaeological sites have been found. Egyptian mummification processes used asphalt imported from the Dead Sea region.
In recent decades, the Dead Sea has been rapidly shrinking because of diversion of incoming water from the Jordan River to the north. The southern end is fed by a canal maintained by the Dead Sea Works, a company that converts the sea's raw materials. From a depression of 395 m (1,296 ft) below sea level in 1970 it fell 22 m (72 ft) to 418 m (1,371 ft) below sea level in 2006, reaching a drop rate of 1 m (3 ft) per year. As the water level decreases, the characteristics of the Sea and surrounding region may substantially change.
The Dead Sea level drop has been followed by a groundwater level drop, causing brines that used to occupy underground layers near the shoreline to be flushed out by freshwater. This is believed to be the cause of the recent appearance of large sinkholes along the western shore—incoming freshwater dissolves salt layers, rapidly creating subsurface cavities that subsequently collapse to form these sinkholes.
In May 2009 at the World Economic Forum, Jordan announced its plans to construct the "Jordan National Red Sea Development Project" (JRSP). This is a plan to convey seawater from the Red Sea near Aqaba to the Dead Sea. Water would be desalinated along the route to provide fresh water to Jordan, with the brine discharge sent to the Dead Sea for replenishment. As of 2009, the project is in its early phases of planning, with developer and financier selection to be completed by year's end. The project is anticipated to begin detailed design in early 2010, with water delivery by 2017. Israel has expressed its support and will likely benefit from some of the water delivery to its Negev region. Some hydro-power will be collected near the Dead Sea from the dramatic change in elevation on the downhill side of the project. In October 2009, the Jordanians announced accelerated plans to extract around 300 million m3 of water per year from the Red Sea, desalinate it for use as fresh water and send the waste water to the Dead Sea by tunnel, despite concerns about inadequate time to assess the potential environmental impact.
At a regional conference in July 2009, officials expressed increased concerns that water levels are dropping. Some suggested various industrial activities around the Dead Sea might need to be reduced. Others advised a range of possible environmental measures to restore conditions. This might include increasing the volume of flow from the Jordan River to replenish the Dead Sea. Currently, only sewage and effluent from fish ponds run in the river's channel. Experts also asserted a need for strict conservation efforts. They also said agriculture should not be expanded, sustainable support capabilities should be incorporated into the area and pollution sources should be reduced.
People flock to the Dead Sea for its healing properties. The unique concentration of the Dead Sea waters has long been known to have medicinal value. Aristotle, Queen of Sheba, King Solomon and Cleopatra were all familiar with this and modern doctors as well often prescribe patients with skin ailments to soak in the waters of the Dead Sea. Because of the dropping level of the Dead Sea, the southern end is no longer under water, except for that which is channelled by aqueducts for the purpose of extracting minerals.
Dead Sea mud, or pelloid, is mineral-rich alluvial sediment, saturated with sulphide components. It holds heat well and can be smeared on the body to cleanse the skin and relieve arthritic and rheumatic pain.