“The Dead Sea Spits Out Asphalt” and Other Fun Facts about the Dead Sea

Bordering the countries of Jordan and Israel and the controversial West Bank, the Dead Sea is one of the most popular landlocked lakes in the world. This lake is known for its numerous unique characteristics. Here are some fun facts about the Dead Sea:

  • The Dead Sea is also known as the Salt Sea. Its Hebrew name is Yām ha-Melaḥ, meaning “sea of salt.”
  • The Dead Sea is the location of the Biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorra.
  • At 423 meters or 1,388 feet, the surface and shores of the Dead Sea is the lowest elevation on the Earth’s surface.
  • The Dead Sea is also the world’s deepest hypersaline lake at 377 meters or 1,237 feet deep.
  • Its salinity level is at 33.7%, making it one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world.  Other lakes like Lake Assal (Djibouti) and McMurdo Dry Valleys (Antarctica) have higher salinities than the Dead Sea.
  • The Dead Sea is named such because no animals can flourish in it. It is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean, and in this very harsh environment, animals cannot survive.
  • Only select quantities of bacteria and microbial fungi can live in its waters.
  • The mineral content of the Dead Sea differs from that of ocean water. There are around 14.4% calcium chloride, 4.4% potassium chloride, 50.8% magnesium chloride, and 30.4% sodium chloride. For most seas and oceans, sodium chloride is at 97% level.
  • Along the southwestern side of the lake is a 210 m (700 ft) tall halite (or salt) formation called "Mount Sodom".
  • The Dead Sea has a density of 1.24 kg/L, making swimming similar to floating. It is natural buoyancy that makes floating in the lake a lot easier.
  • The Jordan River is its only major water source. There are small springs under and around it which create pools and quicksand pits. The Dead Sea has no outlet streams.
  • During the winter, its water temperature tends to be higher than land temperature, and the reverse during the summer months. This is due to the water’s mass and specific heat capacity. On average, there are 192 days above 30OC or 86OF annually.
  • The Dead Sea constantly discharges asphalt, a feature very unusual to any lake. It spits up small pebbles of the black substance from its deep cracks. Asphalt coated figurines and bitumen coated Neolithic skulls from archaeological sites have been found. It is believed that this asphalt had been used to mummify Egyptians.
  • It is one of the world’s first health resorts, dedicated for Herod the Great.
  • The Dead Sea is a popular center for climatotherapy (treatment using climatic features like temperature, humidity, sunshine, and pressure), heliotherapy (treatment using the biological effect of the sun’s radiation) and thalassotherapy (treatment through bathing in the lake’s water). Specifically, it has treatment centers for psoriasis, rhinosinusitis, and osteoarthritis.
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