Located in the Mediterranean region between the borders of Israel, Jordan, and the West Bank is the famous salty water body known as the Dead Sea. It is a hot spot for tourists because of its interesting scenery and the unique experience that it provides. For one, floating is easier on the Dead Sea than is normal for a body of water. For chemical companies, the high levels of various chemical compounds have led to the setting up of processing plants nearby. The Dead Sea has seen a decline in its water level for centuries, and this too has also interested scientists.
Despite its name, the Dead Sea is actually a salt lake and not a sea. This lake gets its water supply from the Jordan River. Unlike a sea, the Dead Sea has no streams flowing out of it leading to the ocean or elsewhere.
The lake used to have a surface area around 394 square miles, with a length of 50 miles, and a maximum width of 11 miles before the water levels began to go down. The depth in the deeper basin making up over three-quarters of the lake was 1,300 ft.
From 2.5 million years ago, the lake has received heavy deposits of sediments such as rock salt, sandstone, clay, shale, and gypsum. Later on, there was marl, soft chalk, and more clay and gypsum. The lake is found in a desert region, and in the last 10,000 years, there has been much more water evaporating from the lake than has come from rainwater. This has changed the appearance of the lake and exposed vast salt deposits. Because of the lowering water levels, hundreds of sinkholes have also formed in the area.
The Saltiness of the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea has a very high level of salt in it or salinity. The water in the lake has, at many periods in its history, been in layers with slightly different temperatures and salinity levels. The salinity of the lake has been around 300 parts per 1,000, which is very high. Besides sodium chloride or salt, there are also a lot of sulfates, bicarbonates, hydrogen sulfide, magnesium, potassium, chlorine, and bromine in the different levels of the lake.
Living organisms cannot survive in very strong salt concentrations. Because of this, the Dead Sea has no life in it besides bacteria. There are also some plants along the borders. Fish and other living creatures that may be brought in by inflowing streams die quite quickly. This lake is truly ‘dead.’
Another phenomenon that is particularly interesting to tourists is that it’s easy to float on the surface. This is because the high salt concentration makes the water of the Dead Sea quite dense. This allows people to remain buoyant. As more water evaporates without being replaced, the lake is only going to get denser.
Interestingly enough, there are few other hypersaline lakes although none as famous as the Dead Sea. The saltiest lake on earth is the Don Juan Pond in Antarctica. This has a salinity of over 40 percent.
Extracting Its Chemicals
The Dead Sea is more than just salt as discussed above. A lot is being extracted from it with one factory producing potash, magnesium, and calcium chloride in Sedom. Another factory produces chemical products including bromine. Blocks of asphalt or bitumen are also found floating in the Lake.
Lots of beauty product ingredients are found in this lake, and it has been often used as a place to get rejuvenation and even healing. The shore of the lake is the lowest point on dry earth. At around 1,400 feet below sea level, there’s plenty more oxygen there. With lots of sunshine and mineral-rich water, it’s no wonder why people flock there.
Alexandra grew up dreaming of being a great science explorer. She always wanted to travel the world and explore some of the greatest science mysteries of the times. After high school, she studied chemistry in college and spent most of her summers working on research projects alongside her professors. It was there that Alexandra got clarity about what she wanted to do in the future. She now works full time in science research at a teaching university and is planning to go to medical school in a few years. She likes to stay up-to-date with the latest discoveries in science and share her love for science through her writing.