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Surviving a swim across the Dead Sea

Swimmers from around the globe become first to cross the world's saltiest body of water.


November 16, 2016 | Latest Photo Prev Next
The swimmers were equipped with special masks due to the water's high salinity.The swimmers were equipped with special masks due to the water's high salinity.Photo: Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images
November 16, 2016 | Latest Photo

Around 30 swimmers from around the world made history yesterday by becoming the first people to swim across the entire Dead Sea.

While the swim is only about 11 miles long, the dense salt content of the water makes it slow going and nearly impossible to swim normally. Think of it more as a crawl. The entire crossing took seven hours to complete.

A woman taking part in the swim from Jordan to Israel gives the thumbs up upon her departure.A woman taking part in the swim from Jordan to Israel gives the thumbs up upon her departure. (Photo: Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images)

"I know it's absolutely crazy, but at my time of life, what a fantastic thing to do," said 62-year-old Jackie Kobell, a Brit who previously swam across the English Channel. She participated in the Nov. 15 event in Israel. "It's so historic and iconic and it's a swim that's never been done before."

The swimmers were equipped with special masks due to the water's high salinity. The salt water also makes it easy to float, which allowed participants to easily pause for breaks to rest and eat – some munched down on bread with tahini and honey.

A woman stretches while floating during a break from the swim.A woman stretches while floating during a break from the swim. (Photo: Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images)

The swim was organized by a nonprofit group called EcoPeace to help raise awareness of various environmental challenges impacting the Dead Sea, which is shrinking by about 3 feet each year.

“This was a challenge, not a race,” said Jean Craven, founder of a South African charity that participates in open-water swims around the world to raise money for children’s causes. “It was really great to see the camaraderie, you know, everyone trying to bring the slowest swimmers along with them.”

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The Dead Sea, the lowest place on the planet and one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world, is certainly a unique locale. It's been an object of awe, a source for beauty products and has been hailed for its medicinal properties. Earlier this year, renowned Israeli sculptor Sigalit Landau made international headlines when she submerged a black gown in the Dead Sea for three months to let the salt build up on it, creating an amazing finished product.

Professional swimmers weren’t the only ones at the Dead Sea recently. On a trip to Israel last week, American actress Hayden Panettiere (from the TV shows “Heroes” and “Nashville”) took a dip in the Dead Sea in a crimson red bathing suit. The 27-year-old New York native said that, hands down, it was “one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done.”


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