‘It is impossible to drown in the Dead Sea’, ‘No-one has ever drowned in the Dead Sea’ These are the words spoken by tens of thousands of people. Even ABC News, a fairly large news network in American, has published an article talking about the salty bowl of water. How cool, the perfect bathing spot. Well it would be, were it not for that they are all wrong. At best they not thinking about every type of drowning. Although that still makes them wrong.
This misconception arises from the fact that the Dead Sea is one of the most bizarre lakes (yes, LAKE) in the world. It is also the deepest hypersaline (salty) lake in the world. 420m below sea level. As well as being low, lying on the Jordan-Israel border it is also salty to a near excessive degree. Around 9 times as salty as the oceans of the world. The whole lake is 33.7% salt. This does of course, have side-effect.
The salt is all dissolved in the water, this makes all of the water much denser than normal water, making it uncomfortable to swim in. Furthermore it means that the water is denser than the human body which is 70%, unsalted water. Meaning it is impossible to sink in the Dead Sea. This is where the misconception rears its ugly head.
Think of someone drowning for a moment, entertain the notion if you will of someone drowning. Done? Good. Now let me guess what you thought. You thought of someone who couldn’t swim, they floundered and thrashed but they eventually fell beneath the surface and drowned, or something to that effect. Now, if you can’t sink, you can’t drown like that can you? Do not forget though, there is another way to drown, after all you only need to have your face in the water, and this is indeed what happens.
Floating in the Dead Sea involves the water pushing your body up with some noticeable force, because of the density of the water any movement is difficult. Still – some manage. People who believe they can’t drown turn themselves onto their fronts, then they have a problem. The lake forces the body to lie flat and it makes it hard to turn. You can see the problem, weak swimmers cannot turn themselves back over; instead the lie face down in the deathly brine. Drowning.
Israel’s Government claims that the Dead Sea is the second most dangerous place to swim in Israel. First place taken by the Mediterranean Sea because there are a lot more bathers, the Dead Sea is much more likely to put you at risk were you to visit. Over the last 5 years alone at least 6 people and died and a further 120 or so have been rescued.
The Dead Sea is named as such because the extreme salinity(saltiness) means no life can exist in it. Only rarely, when the rains dilute it, does the Dead Sea harbor, if temporarily, that basest of all life – bacteria. So yes, not only is it possible to drown in the Dead Sea, several people have and more will. On the bright side – no piranhas. On a further cheerier note the Dead Sea happens to be experiencing a trite little coincidence of great proportions. Thanks to extensive irrigation works on the water around and feeding into the lake flow is reduced; the Dead Sea is dying. How bizarre.