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Thursday
Nov302017

Exploring the Dead  Sea

The Dead Sea is one of the most extraordinary places on Earth. Not only is it submerged with biblical significance but currently stands as the Earth’s lowest land elevation. The surfaces and shores are approximately 420 metres below sea level, making it the deepest hypersaline lake in the world!

Here we explore the nature of the Dead Sea, why it is so popular to visit and the extent at which it is vanishing, being almost true to its name.  

Although it is classified as a ‘Sea’, it is technically a lake because it is landlocked between Israel and Jordan. With a name as such, you can imagine that it is not a very lively aquatic environment. In fact, due to a 34.2% salinity level, marine species are unable to survive here as it is 9 times more saline than any ocean. For this reason, people can float on top of the water due to natural buoyancy; this is why the Dead Sea attracts so many tourists each year.

Flickr | VoteDeadSea

Tourism

The sands surrounding the Dead Sea are those of the Israeli shore and are truly astonishing; in fact these are the lowest beaches in the world! They are packed with black Dead Sea mud that is filled with natural minerals, leaving your skin feeling sensationally smooth. No wonder it was rumored to be a key ingredient in Cleopatra’s beauty regime!

The Dead Sea beaches are ultimately unique; the frequently changing levels and shrinking rate of 1-1.5 metres per year means that every few years the beaches are in a new location and all the restaurants and sunbeds have to be relocated. This is why it is considered a once in a lifetime experience as it will look completely different if you go back again in more or less 2 years.

Wikimedia | Jorge LascarKalia Beach, in the northern Dead Sea region is one of the best known beaches as it includes the lowest restaurant and bar in the world. It is located in a calm spot away from the busy tourist resort of Ein Bokek and is just half an hour from Jerusalem. Here, bathing in the therapeutic mineral-rich mud is so common, where covering yourself from head to toe in the mud is a popular photo moment. There are also several nearby attractions such as the Qumran Caves and Einot Tzukim Nature Reserve, with natural pools of mineral water.

For those who want to indulge in a bit of luxury, there are several hotels which lie on the shores of the Dead Sea. They facilitate many spa treatments using the therapeutic minerals, including a sea salt scrub and healing mud facials. There are over 21 minerals within the Dead Sea, 12 of which are rare and only found in this part of the world.

Wikimedia | Guillaume Paumier
Wildlife


The Dead Sea itself is lifeless but many animals can be found in the area. The Jordan Rift Valley where the lake lies is a major corridor for migrating species on route to Africa. These consist of various birds of prey including the Dead Sea sparrow, as well as swamp cats and marsh frogs. Away from the shores in the mountainous areas hyraxes, wolves and foxes can be found, specifically within the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. In fact, this nature reserve has one of the largest groups of ibexes.  If you’re an animal lover then it’s a great place to visit!

Wikimedia | Elad Tzur

It’s drying out!

As glamorous as the Dead Sea may seem to us, it is vanishing at an unsettling rate. It is in the midst of environmental catastrophe. It is assumed to have commenced in the 1960’s when part of the River Jordan, which is the main river supply to the Dead Sea, was diverted to other areas of Israel. This has limited the quantity of water entering the vicinity. At the same time, an Israeli dam was built south of the Dead Sea, again inhibiting the flow and instead increasing the water supply to the cities and hotel resorts.  It is considered that the Dead Sea requires 160 billion gallons of water per year to maintain its current water depth; however at this moment in time, it only receives 10% of this. As you can imagine, water scarcity has a ripple effect on surrounding areas such as on farmers that rely on water for livelihood. The hot and arid climate doesn’t make this crisis any better, where water evaporation exceeds rainfall.

Wikimedia | NASA's Earth ObservatorySolutions

So what can be done to stop the Dead Sea disappearing completely? At least one positive thing from this crisis is that Israel and Jordan have signed a deal in an effort to increase the water levels by connecting channels from the neighbouring Red Sea to the Dead Sea. The plan is pump seawater 230 metres uphill through multiple pipelines into the Dead Sea, comprising of 850 million cubic metres of freshwater into the lake per year! This seems like a great plan; it is however dubious as to whether this plan will work considering the distance between the two seas and cost. If it works out, it will be a miracle!

Flickr | Tsai ProjectThere are a few things you probably didn’t know about the Dead Sea! As therapeutic as it seems, it is trying to play a disappearing act on us. However before it does, why not visit and see for yourself how distinctive it is and like no other place on Earth.

 

By Sophia-Harri NicholaouOnline Journalism Intern

Frontier runs conservationdevelopmentteaching and adventure travel projects in over 50 countries worldwide - so join us and explore the world!

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