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Dead Sea

water, feet, salt, miles, lake, period, plain and surface

DEAD SEA, the usual name given to a most remarkable lake in the southeast border of Palestine, called in the Old Testament °The Salt Sea,' °Sea of the Plain* or °East See; by Josephus, °Lacus Asphaltites°•, and by the Arabs now, Bahr-Llit, "Sea of Lot.* It lies along the line of a great fault from the Gulf of Akaha at the head of the Red Sea to Hermon. It is 47 miles long, with a breadth of from 5 to 10 miles and occupies an area of 340 square miles. Its surface, which is lower than that of any water known, is 1,292 feet below the level of the Mediterranean. There is evidence that its level was nearly 1,200 feet higher than now. The depth of the greater part of the northern section is about 1,300 feet; but at the south end the water is only from 3 to 12 feet deep. The shape is that of an elongated oval, interrupted by a promontory which projects into it from the southeast. The Dead Sea is fed by the Jordan from the north and by •many other streams, but has no apparent outlet It is estimated that 6,000,000 tons of water flow into it daily, al most all of it •being carried off by evaporation. Along the eastern and western borders of the Dead Sea there are fines of bold, and in some cases perpendicular, cliffs rising in general to an elevation of 1,900 feet on the west and 2,500 feet on the east. It is a striking fact that these cliffs are all composed of limestone on the west, and on the east of sandstone of gorgeous hues, and are destitute of vegetation except in the ravines traversed by fresh water streamlets. The northern shores of the lake form an exten sive and desolate muddy flat, marked by the blackened trunks and brandies of trees, strewn about and encrusted with salt. The southern shore is low, level and marshy, desolate and dreary. On this shore is the remarkable ridge of rock-salt, 7 miles long and 300 feet high, called Khashm Usdom (Ridge of Sodom). Lava-beds, pumice-stone, warm springs, sulphur and volcanic slag suggest the presence here of volcanic agencies at some period; but some modern geologists declare that no active vol canoes have ever existed in this vicinity; and that the subsidence of the Jordan Valley oc curred in the Tertiary Period. On the other hand it is claimed by modern travelers that the neighborhood of the Dead Sea is frequently visited by earthquakes, and the lake still occa sionally casts up to its surface large masses of asphalt. The long-entertained belief that the exhalations from this lake were fatal is not founded upon fact. The absence of bird life is most impressive. The salinity of the waters is adverse to life, though some lower organizations are found in them. The region of the Dead

Sea is rich in all kinds of minerals; copper mines were worked in the Byzantine period near the southern end; bitumen and sulphur are abundant, and its basin is rich in marble, porphyry, and other fine stones.

The water of the Dead Sea is characterized by the presence of a large quantity of magne man and soda salts. Its specific gravity ranges from 1172 to 1227 (pure water being 100Q). The proportion of saline matter is so great that, while to every ton of water in the Atlantic there are 31 pounds of salt,, in the Dead Sea are 187 pounds. Its water contains 23 per cent solid matter, and is, bulk for bulk, heavier than the human body. In all lakes or collections of water without any outflow, the water acquires an infusion of salt, its feeders constantly bring ing in this material, while none can go off by evaporation, even when the shores do not as here abound in salt and nitre. The evaporation is great as the heat is intense, and the sea but slightly increases its area. Rain hardly ever falls; the water is nearly as Mite and clear as that of the Mediterranean; and though its taste is horribly salt and fetid, "a bath in it is refreshing. Owing to the great specific gravity of the water, it is almost impossible'for the bather to sink in it, strive as he may. Several of those who have navigated and ex plored the sea have fallen victims to a fatal fever. For the story of the 'Cities of the . 't Plain,' Gen. xIx; but to Captain Conder, it is now generally agreed that the Dead Sea and Jordan were formed by a great fault or crack in the earth's surface long be fore the creation of man, and that the district presents in our own days much the same aspect as in the days of Abraham. It is vain, there fore, to suppose that the 'Cities of the Plain' were beneath the present sea, though this view was held as early as the time of Josephus.° The Dead was first navigated by Costi gan, an Irish traveler, in 1835, and he was fol lowed by Molyneau, a British officer, in 1847, neither of whom survived their experiences. Lynch, an Aint.ilan traklu, was thefirlt (1848) to explore its coasts and o take sour ings of its depths. Consult Abel, ' Une Croisiere autour do la Mer /done' (1911); Blancken thorn,