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Dead Sea & Rift Valley







>> Slip rate on the Dead Sea transform fault in northern Araba valley - Jordan (1.4 mb), Submitted by Prof. Najib Abou Karaki

>> Seismic behaviour of the Dead Sea fault along Araba valley Jordan (820 kb), Submitted by Prof. Najib Abou Karaki

>> Future of Dead Sea — 'history will judge us', By Mutaz Mango


>> Satellite Revelations, Computer-generated Images by Richard Cleave


- Understanding the Dead Sea


The Dead Sea is one of the most unique features on planet Earth. Between this spot in Jordan and Mount Everest in the Himalayas, lays the rest of the world. When you submerge yourself to the neck in the water of the Dead Sea, you would be in the lowest point the face of Earth - 416 meters below the shores of the Mediterranean.




Each time one swims in this sea a new personal record of lowness is broken. Return a year later and you have to imagine your last swim as suspended at an imaginary layer above the current water surface. The Dead Sea is like a big swimming pool being emptied, one should quickly enjoy the remaining water, keeping in mind that each swim is unique and each beach is only in its location- once.


This lake is running away- downward- and leaving us, leaving the hotels, the roads, and the surrounding hills behind unable to catch up with it. For thousands of years, the Dead Sea has bean dying. With its water getting lesser and saltier, what is alarming, for the past 50 years, is the speed in which its level has been dropping. Due to the use of most of River Jordan's water or irrigation and drinking, and due to dams depriving it from other lesser vital tributaries, the Dead sea is now at a dying rate of about one meter a year. This means if you visit it once a week, each time your swim will be some 2 cm lower


Historically, water level was as high as the base of the bridge at the Mujib gorge, minus 390 m. In fact, photos taken as recent as 1930s show the Mujib gorge visited by boats, if one of these boats would have tied its ropes at any point of those vanished 1930s shores, today it would be hanging on the mountainside about one kilometer away from the sea and some 20 meters above its water.


The Dead Sea wasn't always dead. About 20 thousand years ago it covered 160 km of the length of Jordan Valley, forming the "Lisan Lake" that reached from a point 40 km south of the current Lisan and all the way to Lake Tiberius. The Dead Sea's history also seams to repeat itself, for the current shape- basically limited to the northern part without the southern part that usually appears on maps- seams to have occurred before. The 1500-year-old mosaic map of Madaba, ironically, gives closer resemblance now of the sea's current shape than most of the "modern " maps of today. The low level during the Byzantine (5th century AD) may hint to a long period of drought, maybe due to a cycle, of hundreds or thousands of years. It also corresponds with the story of Sodom and Gomorra, which seam to have been flooded in the filling-up process.


Banks of this lake are moving. In fact, The Jordanian side is traveling north in relation to banks on the western side. Each year Jordan, Madaba, and the Dead Sea hotels move few millimeters to the north, if this journey continues, in 30 million years these hotels will be facing Nazareth.


In Geological terms the Dead Sea is relatively young. As part of same geological event of the rift valley and the Red Sea, it is only some 27 million years old. When the Dead Sea was being formed, Dinosaurs have already been extinct and fossilized for some 35 million years.

This dying lake with the rest of the Jordan valley, gives us a unique chance to look at a cross-section, a dramatic vertical cut in the depths of the Jordanian landscape, a cross-section in time that resembles pages of an open book; a rare manuscript that we must learn to read, and pass to our children in a legible condition.


Copyright 2002 Pella Museum. All rights reserved.