Crystallization in the Dead Sea

September 30, 2012


: Menashe Davidson
Summary Author: Menashe Davidson

The Dead Sea is a saline lake bordering Jordan on the east and Israel on the west. It's located 1,388 ft (423 m) below sea level -- the lowest point on the Earth's land surface. This inland sea receives less than 2 in (50 mm) mean annual rainfall and has a summer average temperature of about 97 F (36 C). Because the Dead Sea lies in a closed or endorheic basin (no drainage exit), salts continuously accumulate, making the water extremely saline -- in Hebrew the Dead Sea is the "Sea of Salt." These salts (magnesium, potassium, sodium, etc.) are responsible for the greasy feel of the water. One result of this odd chemistry is the striking salt crystal formations often observed along the shoreline. Because the ions present in the water of the Dead Sea crystallize in different ways, there's a diverse and rich array of natural formations -- some formations are like natural works of art. The above photo is an example of crystallization on a dry plant floating on the water's surface. Note that in the Dead Sea, as its name implies, there's virtually no life at all. Photo taken on September 14, 2010.

Photo Details: Camera: NIKON D80; Focal Length: 135.0mm (35mm equivalent: 202mm); Aperture: f/14.0; Exposure Time: 0.0063 s (1/160); ISO equiv: 400.