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Swimmers Conquer Their Toughest Challenge Yet: The Dead Sea

Dead Sea in Israel

In November 2016, history was made in the swimming universe. In an event organized by EcoPeace, swimmers gathered to make the trek from Jordan to Israel, across the Dead Sea, one of Earth’s saltiest bodies of water.

Its surface is 429 meters (1,407 feet) below sea level, Earth’s lowest elevation on land. The Dead Sea water has a density of 1.24 kg per liter (0.0103 pounds per gallon). The salinity makes for a toxic environment, one where plants and animals can’t survive, ultimately earning its name the Dead Sea.

The project was aimed to raise awareness of the fragile state of the Dead Sea, which loses roughly a meter of water per year.

While the distance, 17 kilometers, is no easy task, that wasn’t the challenge that the 26 swimmers from across the world seemed to focus on. Their focus was more toward the high salinity of the waters, estimated to be 10 times higher than that of the ocean.

Man reading magazine floating in the Dead Sea
Man reading magazine floating in the Dead Sea (Image via Envato Elements)

“Swallowing one cup of this water is equivalent to a viper bite in terms of damage to the nervous system,” said Uri Sela in a Haaretz article.

Special snorkel masks were provided to the swimmers that allowed their faces to be submerged in the water, but at the same time managing to keep the salt away from their eyes and mouths. The water’s high salinity is the contributing factor as to why more people drown in the Dead Sea than the Mediterranean.

“Even just a few drops (of water) feels like acid burning in your eyes — if you ingest it, either through your mouth or through your nose, it is potentially fatal,” says Kim Chambers, a New Zealand swimmer who, in the past, has overcame difficult swim routes across the globe, but not one quite as challenging as the Dead Sea.

The amount of salt in the water made it impossible for swimmers to stay under the water. Due to the water’s buoyancy, swimmers had to adapt a new swimming style — one where they couldn’t use their legs.

In order to maintain the safety of the swimmers, they took a break every half hour to eat and refresh. The swimmers also took the time during the break to use freshwater to wash off the salt from their bodies.

After a seven-hour journey and quite possibly the world’s saltiest bodies, 80% of the swimmers managed to finish and put their names in the history books.

“This is the Dead Sea,” said Sela, “but we received life and fell in love with the place.”

Dead Sea
Dead Sea (Image via Envato Elements)
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