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Dead Sea

the lowest point and saltiest water on earth

The Dead Sea forms part of the border between Israel and Jordan. It is about 50 miles long and 10 miles wide, and covers an area of about 405 square miles.

map showing the location of the Dead Sea
map showing the location of the Dead Sea

The sea (which is actually a lake) is fed by the River Jordan, which enters at the north end, and by several small streams, but has no outlet to the sea, which is how it became the saltiest body of water in the world. With 26 to 35 percent of the water comprised of dissolved salts, the Dead Sea is almost six times saltier than the ocean, and twice as saline as the Great Salt Lake. It is also the lowest point on earth, with its shore being over 1,300 feet below sea level; at its deepest point, the bottom of the Dead Sea is over 2,300 feet below sea level.

satellite view of the Dead Sea
satellite view of the Dead Sea

The Dead Sea lies so far below sea level because it is located within the deepest fault in the earth's crust, the Great Rift, which extends from just north of the Dead Sea through the Red Sea and into east central Africa. There is nowhere for incoming waters to go except into the air through evaporation, leaving minerals behind. The waters of the Dead Sea are so filled with minerals that a person can actually float on the surface without even trying. In fact, the water is so dense that it is virtually impossible to swim in the Dead Sea.

man floating in the Dead Sea
man floating in the Dead Sea

The same minerals that make the Dead Sea so unique also make it a very valuable resource. Potash, common salt, magnesium chloride, potassium chloride, calcium chloride, and magnesium bromide are just some of the important minerals extracted from the water and surrounding shores. The waters of the Dead Sea have been known since antiquity to have medicinal value, and modern doctors still prescribe a soak in the Dead Sea for patients suffering from a variety of skin ailments.

No large animals live in the Dead Sea, but one species of brine shrimp, several species of bacteria, and one species of algae have adapted to life in the mineral-rich waters.

shore of the Dead Sea
shore of the Dead Seashores of the Dea Sea

SEE ALSO
Jordan
Great Salt Lake

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The Robinson Library >> General and Old World History >> Asia >> Israel >> Regions, Etc., A-Z

This page was last updated on March 02, 2017.