“We have three seas,” I was told. “Med, Red and Dead.” The other two didn’t live up to their names. I mean the Mediterranean may have been the center of the known world once, but it can’t really claim that today. And the Red Sea? Well, it isn’t scarlet, vermillion or crimson. The Dead Sea however, does earn its name. Very little life can survive here, but one thing does grow – salt crystals.
The Dead Sea has around 30% salinity. This compares to about 3% found in your typical ocean. You have to enter the water to really experience the difference. So I prepared myself.
Salt would make every tiny knick and cut in my skin sting. I had avoided shaving my legs and made sure that I didn’t have any open wounds. Yet when I entered the water I suddenly realized that my hands were covered with tiny cuts, sores and hang-nails. Ouch!
Next was a lesson in buoyancy. Working as a preschool teacher, I had done experiments with kids to demonstrate that items that sink in fresh water may float in salt water. Later, while learning to scuba dive, I studied the physics behind this. But nothing brought the lesson home quite like my “swim” in the Dead Sea.
I figured I would wade in until I was waist deep, then swim. Normal, right? Trouble is, you can’t really wade in that far. When the water reached the middle of my legs I popped up like a cork and found myself floating on top of the water before I had planned to.
Okay, fine. I’ll swim. I attempted to paddle with my arms, but I kept bumping into other people. I’m a strong swimmer. What the hell was happening? I looked at my flailing arms. The motions they were making were not helping me control my body in the water because my arms were not in the water. They were floating on top of it. Swimming in the Dead Sea took a whole different skill set. You had to “push down” with every stroke.
After my swim/bob/float experience, I sat on the shore and gave myself a facial with the famous Dead Sea mud.
When we had arrived, the driver of our van had told us that we were at the lowest point on earth. The Dead Sea lies 423 meters below sea level and is considered to be the lowest elevation on land. “So, now that we’ve been here we can never get any lower,” another passenger commented. Well- good to know that’s behind me!
But of course, I don’t consider my visit to the Dead Sea to be a low point in my travels. In fact, I would recommend it to anyone as a unique experience. The Dead Sea lies in the Jordan Rift Valley, bordering Jordan, Israel and the West Bank. You can visit from either Israel or Jordan. If your coming from the Israeli side, coupling it with a stop at the Ein Gedi nature reserve makes a nice day trip.
Happy floating.Published in