The Dead Sea, the salty lake located at the lowest point on Earth, is gradually shrinking under the heat of the Middle Eastern sun. For those who live on its shores it’s a slow-motion crisis – but finding extra water to sustain the sea will be a huge challenge.
If there’s one thing everyone knows about the Dead Sea it is that you can’t sink in it.
It is eight or nine times saltier than the oceans of the world – so dense and mineral rich that it doesn’t even feel like normal water, more like olive oil mixed with sand.
For decades no holiday in the Holy Land or Jordan has been complete without a photograph of the bather sitting bolt upright on the surface, usually reading a newspaper to emphasise the extraordinary properties of the water.
But the Dead Sea is also a unique ecosystem and a sensitive barometer of the state of the environment in a part of the world where an arid climate and the need to irrigate farms combine to create a permanent shortage of water.
You may have read that the Dead Sea is dying. You can see why the idea appeals to headline writers but it isn’t quite true.
As the level drops, the density and saltiness are rising and will eventually reach a point where the rate of evaporation will reach a kind of equilibrium. So it might get a lot smaller, but it won’t disappear entirely.
It is however shrinking at an alarming rate – the surface level is dropping more than a metre (3ft) a year.
When you consider that the surface of the Dead Sea is the lowest point on the planet – currently 420m (1,380ft) below sea level – that means that the planet’s lowest point is being recalibrated on an annual basis.
It is deep enough that journeying along the road that winds down to the shore causes your ears to pop as they do on an aircraft coming in to land.
The landscapes of the Dead Sea have an extraordinary, almost lunar quality to them – imagine the Grand Canyon with Lake Como nestling in its depths. And the people of the ancient world understood that there was something unique in the place, even if they couldn’t be quite sure what it was.
source/full story by Kevin Connolly BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-36477284