"Don’t splash when you are in the water!" Good advice for anyone who goes swimming in the Dead Sea. Getting salty water into your eyes can really hurt! And when I say “salty”, I mean “R E A L L Y S A L T Y”!
As a matter of fact, the water in the Dead Sea is 8.6 times as salty as ocean water. With 33.7% salinity, it is the world’s saltiest body of water, - and the lowest spot in the world. An elevation of - 423 m (- 1,388ft) makes the Dead Sea the Earth’s lowest elevation on land. Being that far below sea level has a couple of interesting side effects: the oxygen content of the air is higher and, because the atmosphere above you is thicker, one does not need as much protection from sunlight as at sea level.
Located at the eastern border of Israel with Jordan and at the edge of the Judean Desert, this lake makes for a harsh environment. No animals can flourish here – thus the name. Despite its hostile nature, the Dead Sea has been the site of the world’s first health resort (for King Herod) and has supplied a wide variety of products: balms for Egyptian mummification, potash for fertilizer, minerals for cosmetics and salt for the King’s poached eggs.
The climate at the lake features temperatures of up to 47 C (117 F) in July to 5 C (42 F) in January. The mean rainfall for the year is 50 mm (2 inches). Surprisingly, 1.2 million foreign visitors come here every year. Beats me, why! I tried to swim in the Dead Sea, but with limited success. Since Dead Sea water has a density if 1.24 kg/L, you float effortlessly. Conventional breast stroke is out of the question, because your legs hover above water (see pictures).
Environmentally speaking, the Dead Sea is in trouble. Its main water intake is the Jordan River to the north. However, water in the Jordan River is being diverted for irrigation purposes, causing the river to add only a trickle of water to the Dead Sea. Every year, the level of the Dead Sea drops by 1 m (3 ft). To reverse this trend, Jordan and Israel are looking at a variety of options from reducing agricultural water usage to pumping desalinated water from the Red Sea into the Dead Sea.