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.