The New Student's Reference Work/Dead Sea

Dead Sea, the name of a most remarkable lake in the southeast of Palestine, called in the Old Testament, the Salt Sea, Sea of the Plain or East Sea. It is 46 miles long, with a breadth of from 5 to 9 miles. Its surface, which is lower than that of any water known, is 1,292 feet below the level of the Mediterranean. The shape is that of a lengthened oval, with a promontory jutting into it on the southeast. The Dead Sea is fed by the Jordan on the north and by many other streams; but it seemingly has no outlet. The excess of water is held to be carried off by becoming vapor. The tall limestone-cliffs on the east and west, the muddy flat on the north and the low marsh on the south are all barren and dreary. On the north blackened trunks and branches of trees can be seen, incrusted with salt; while on the south is the remarkable ridge of rock-salt, seven miles long and 300 feet high, called the Ridge of Sodom. The proximity of lava-beds, pumice-stone, warm springs, sulphur and volcanic slag proves volcanic work at some time in the past. The long-held belief that the vapor given off by the lake was deathly is not founded on fact. Birds fly over and swim about on its surface. But the salt of the water is inimical to life, though some lower forms of sea-animals are found in it. The water of the Dead Sea has eight times as much salt as that of the ocean. In all lakes or ponds without an outflow the water becomes salty, its feeders all the time bringing in salt while none goes off in vapor, as the water does. The evaporation is great because of the great heat. Rain hardly ever falls; the water is nearly as blue as the Mediterranean; and, though its taste is extremely salty and disagreeable, a bath in it is refreshing. It is almost impossible for the bather to sink in it, however hard he may try. It was for a long time thought that the Dead Sea flowed over the former site of the cities of the plain (Gen. xix).