7 intriguing things you didn't know about the Dead Sea
This super-salty lake has a long history and is a source of awe around the world.
The still, dense waters of the Dead Sea have mystified people for thousands of years. As scientists continue to research its hypersaline waters, more and more questions about this body of water seem to pop up. Yet there are many things we do know about the Dead Sea, and most of them may surprise you.
1. The Dead Sea is not a sea.
The Dead Sea, also known as the Salt Sea, is actually a salt lake. It has a single source, the Jordan River, and is not connected to the ocean. Its landlocked nature causes the water to evaporate and leave behind massive amounts of salt, making it so dense that people can float on top of it.
2. The Dead Sea harbors life.
Microbial life, that is. The salt content of the water is far too high for any plants or animals to survive, but scientists have discovered microbial life at the bottom of its brackish waters. Finding out more about how exactly bacteria and fungi thrive in such an extreme environment has applications around the world, including saline agriculture as desertification becomes more of a concern.
3. The Dead Sea isn't the saltiest lake on Earth.
Mistakenly touted as the saltiest body of water in the world, the Dead Sea ranks among a handful of hypersaline lakes that have over 30 percent salinity. The lake that ranks number one on that list is Don Juan Pond in Antarctica, at more than 40 percent salinity. The Dead Sea, on the other hand, has just over 34 percent salinity, according to the latest measurements.
4. The shore of the Dead Sea is the Earth's lowest point on dry land.
The shores that surround the Dead Sea are about 1,400 feet below sea level, making this the lowest point on Earth that people can travel to and still be in the open air. Beneath its surface, the lake itself dips down over 1,000 feet, making it the deepest hypersaline lake in the world.
5. It's always sunny at the Dead Sea.
Okay, maybe not always — but at less than two inches of rain in an entire year, rain clouds are few and far between. In winter, the region's climate hovers around a balmy 70 degrees Fahrenheit. In the summer, it can reach temperatures higher than 100 degrees. Though it is constantly sunny, it's actually one of the safer places to (accidentally, of course) forget to apply sunscreen. UVB rays are weaker in the region, so it takes longer to burn.
6. The Dead Sea produces more than just salt-covered rocks.
The shores of the Dead Sea are crystallized with salt, but that's not the only thing that comes out of the Dead Sea. Blocks of asphalt (bitumen) have been found floating on the surface of the lake. The asphalt bubbles up from seeps on the bottom of the lake. Ancient Egyptians once used the Dead Sea's bitumen for their mummification processes.
7. The Dead Sea is a center for healing.
Many claim that this lake is a haven for healing, and its mud is used in a bounty of beauty products. While some claims still require scientific backing, it's easy to see why a visit here might be rejuvenating: with a higher atmospheric pressure, low allergen count, and slightly higher oxygen content than at sea level, the Dead Sea is literally a breath of fresh air — not to mention the mineral content of its waters. Who wouldn't feel better after a day of complete relaxation and soaking up the sunshine?
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