The Curious Properties of Salt

At 1000 feet below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest place on Earth. All of the world’s ocean liners are circling the seas 1000 feet above your head. That’s fun to imagine.

The coordinates and historical context are almost as interesting as the altitude. At Amman beach you are so close to Israel that there is a passport check. Swim for a half hour and there you are. The proximity figures into the Bible: just behind you is Mount Nebo, where Moses viewed the Promise Land. The site of Jesus’ baptism at Bethany-Beyond-the Jordan is just down the road.

All fantastic reasons to visit the Dead Sea. But the greatest draw is a mysterious little bit of common seasoning: Salt. Due to some serious evaporation issues, the Dead Sea is 30% saltier than the ocean. For the casual swimmer, this means over-buoyancy. You can basically float on the surface of the water, looking like a moron with your toes pointed in the air and trying not to roll onto your stomach and perhaps drown.

Salt, buoyancy, the discovery of painful cuts you didn’t know you had…this is all to be expected. The surprising discovery is that after emerging from the Dead Sea all crusty like a salted cod you can wear your salt like a winter coat. You are completely protected from the chilly breezes that normally plague the wet bather. So, if you forget your sweater on a cold day, just dunk yourself in salt and you’re good to go.

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