Written by Saanchi Biyani, a grade 5 student
The Dead Sea is unique in two ways- It is one of the saltiest lakes in the world, and it is the lowest point on land. This strange lake, located at the border of Israel and Jordan, is a famous tourist spot. But have you ever wondered why is it so salty? And why is it called “Dead”? Is the Dead Sea really dead?
A sea in the middle of the desert
The Dead Sea is the world’s deepest hypersaline lake. It lies in the Judean desert. Till the 1960s, the Dead Sea was mainly fed by water from the Jordan River. The Dead Sea was actually a lagoon and was a part of the Mediterranean Sea. But, a few million years ago, due to some tectonic shift, this lagoon got cut off from the Mediterranean Sea. And as it was located in the desert, it began to dry up and turned into a salt lake.
What’s special about the Dead Sea
- The Dead Sea is salty! The lake’s salinity is 34%, which means every third molecule in the Dead Sea is a salt molecule.
- The lake is 50 km long, 15 km wide, and 380 metres deep. It was much bigger earlier. The harsh desert climate provides very little water to the lake and the water level has been dropping by one metre every year. At present, the lake holds around 40 billion gallons of water.
- Because of high salinity, the water is so dense, that you can actually float on the surface of the water. Tourists love to do that!
- The Dead Sea is located at the lowest point on land- 430 mt below sea level. This itself makes the Dead Sea a unique place on Earth.
- You will not find any fish, turtles, and crabs, or even plants in and around the Dead Sea. The salt simply does not permit them to survive in this harsh environment.
- The Dead Sea was famous even in ancient times for its minerals and salts. It was the first health resort and spa in the world. The salt, minerals, and mineral-rich black mud around the lake are great for the treatment of skin problems. The oxygen around the lake is 5% higher, which helps improve health.
- The Dead Sea was an important salt manufacturing site. In ancient times, Romans guarded this lake as salt was an important item for trading. Roman soldiers were paid in salt, not money!
How Dead is the Dead Sea
Well, the Dead Sea looks dead but is not quite so. In fact, a number of tiny micro-organisms live in this hypersaline soup. Some years ago, divers discovered a number of craters on the bed of the Dead Sea. These craters throw up freshwater which allows some bacteria and algae to survive in the lake. This was an important discovery and scientists were very excited. In 1980, and in 1992, the Dead Sea turned a bright red thanks to a major algae bloom. So, you see, the Dead Sea is home to living organisms after all.
Will the Dead Sea Disappear
The major source of fresh water for the lake was the Jordan River. This river no longer flows into the Dead Sea, as Israel diverted its water for itself. The Dead Sea now has to depend on some mountain springs, some rainfall, and a flash flood once in a while. The surface water is evaporating under the harsh desert Sun. The lake is shrinking, and the Dead Sea may disappear completely. If the Jordan River waters flow into the lake again, then the amazing Dead Sea will survive.
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