physikanten & co // News // Dead Sea Science // Part 4: Swimming in the Dead Sea

Part 4: Swimming in the Dead Sea

The Dead Sea lies 428 metres below sea level, assuming that is the level of the world’s oceans. Water from Jordan flows into it but cannot flow out, instead it can only evaporate. The salt is left behind, giving the Dead Sea extraordinary properties.

The classic! When you go into the Dead Sea, you don’t notice anything particularly special, except maybe small scratches on your body begin to burn in the saltwater. But when you then settle down in the water it’s great! It’s a really strange feeling when you can comfortably hold your feet and arms out the water.
The physical reason is clear: the saltwater has a much greater density (of 1.24 g/cm^3) than that of fresh water (at 1.00 g/cm^3). Normally human bodies float in fresh water, without protruding far out of the surface. If I breathe deeply, I do not go immediately underwater and sink to the floor until I breathe out again.
In the Dead Sea however the buoyancy of the heavy saltwater so big, that you simply cannot go under. Quite the opposite; a part of your body will be pushed above the water’s surface by the water itself.
This leads to the paradoxical situation where you can swim badly in the Dead Sea. Front crawl is out of the question, because you would get the water in your mouth and in your eyes. With breaststroke there is a surprising problem too: your feet stick out the water!

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