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Why is the Dead Sea called the Dead Sea?
Table of Contents
What is a salt lake, and how does it form?
From the name ‘salt lake,’ it is clear that these lakes are saltier than a normal lake. Surprisingly, salt lakes can be even saltier than the ocean! They even contain different types of salt, including sodium chloride , or table salt.
Salt lakes can form in different ways. The Dead Sea is specifically formed because of large plates shifting under the Earth’s surface. Over a million years ago, the African Plate and the Arabian Plate shifted, causing a ditch to form. This ditch was originally connected to the Mediterranean Sea, so it was full of water. Over time, the plates shifted again, cutting the Dead Sea off from the Mediterranean Sea. This is why it now exists as a lake on its own.
How did this lake become so salty? After it was separated from the Mediterranean Sea, the water levels retreated, leaving behind much saltier water. In addition, the only remaining source of water is the Jordan River which sends both water and sediment into this lake. After the sediment settles, the salt content of the lake increases even more. There is nowhere for the water to go once it has reached the Dead Sea’s dead end.
How did the Dead Sea get its name?
Now that we know how it got its saltiness, how did this body of water get its name? Salty water is not always good for animals and plants. We know that many animals and plants survive in the ocean happily. However, the lake is nine times saltier than the ocean! That amount of salt prevents animals and plants from being able to survive. So the reason it was named the Dead Sea is for its lack of living organisms.
Does anything live in the Dead Sea?
Although animals and plants cannot survive in the super salty lake, there are some microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi that live here. Specific types of bacteria and fungi can survive different types of living conditions that more complicated organisms cannot survive.
In the past, when rain poured into the lake, the level of saltiness changed, and so did the microorganisms that lived there. With a lower salt content, new microorganisms were able to tolerate and thrive here, including brilliant red Dunaliella algae. However, when the water returned to its saltier state, these algae could no longer survive.
So only the bacteria and fungi that can survive the saltiest conditions survive here. They have a large and peaceful home – until people come to explore.
Can people swim in the Dead Sea?
Even though animals and plants cannot live in the Dead Sea, it is possible for humans to get into the water. People can try to swim in it, but they may have a bit of trouble. With the high salt content, the easiest thing to do in this water is to simply float. This is because the saltiness of the water forces the body to float to the surface. Therefore, it is just impossible to sink. And even if you attempt to kick your feet and swim, you will find your feet being forced upwards. So the best thing to do here is to sit back and relax!
Science Experiment: Make a Dead Sea in a cup
It’s time to “Sea” what the Dead Sea is like!
1. Find a glass or any cup that you can see through.
2. Fill the glass with water.
3. Get an egg. Place the egg gently into the water. You’ll see it fall to the bottom of the glass.
Note: Some eggs will float in the water. This means the egg is a little older. If you can find a fresher egg, use that one instead.
4. Start adding salt to the water slowly. Add it little by little, stirring the water as you go.
5. As you add more salt, watch the egg float to the top of the water!
Science behind the Dead Sea
Adding salt to water can change the density of water, making it heavier than normal water. During the experiment, the salt water becomes heavier and heavier until its density is higher than the density of the egg. This causes the egg to float all the way to the top of the water, much like you would float in the Dead Sea!
Another type of lake : Soda Lakes
Freshwater lakes, salt lakes, and soda lakes… Oh my! Have you cooked with baking soda? Baking soda gets its name from its composition, which is sodium bicarbonate. Soda lakes are similar to salt lakes, but they have a higher amount of carbonates , like those found in baking soda.
Popular Soda Lakes
1. Soap Lake in Washington
2. Lake Shala in Ethiopia
3. Lake Zabuye in Tibet
Salt Lake – a lake with a high amount of salt
Sodium Chloride – table salt, also found in salt lakes
Plates – pieces of the Earth’s crust that move below the surface of the Earth
Sediment – particles that settle at the bottom of the water
Microorganism – tiny organisms like bacteria or fungi
Density – a measurement of how much mass is in a space
Carbonate – a type of salt
Flesch Kincaid Score: 75.3
Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level: 6
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