Dead Sea Salt Flats & Whitening

Salt Flats

In the Temple of Jerusalem, salt was used for all the sacrifices, it was called Melach Sdomit, the Salt of Sodom.

In Ezekiel 47, he prophesizes that in the future, sweet waters will gush out from the Temple in Jerusalem and flow to the east and west, that is the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean. The sea of “foul waters” will become wholesome, with abundance of fishes. “But its swamps and marshes shall not become wholesome; they will serve to supply salt”.

In the winter of 92 there were heavy rains and the dam in Degania opened up, bringing a great amount of pebbles.  There were pebble bars on top of mud flats that created isolated water lagoons. These bodies of water formed salt flats when dried. This is an indication of salt production in the past. The salinity varies with each pond, there are different microorganisms in each one, some have copper and each has a slightly different colour.

Salt was very valuable and accepted by Roman soldiers as payment. Salt: Salarium. So now, we know the story behind getting a salary. Just make sure you don’t get the wrong payment!

Whitening of the Dead Sea

In the hottest days of summer (generally in august) an unusual phenomenon took place: the waters that were crystalline suddenly became white. This occurred in both basins. It lasted hours, even a few days, and then it reverted to its original appearance. After research was done, it was discovered that it was an optical effect due to very tiny crystals of aragonite and gypsum that were being formed in the water. Due to the high evaporation the waters acted as a saturated solution for the creation of these minerals. The particles were so tiny that they floated, after a time they settled down in the bottom and covered pebbles.

This phenomena stopped in the 80’s.Comparing the accumulation of sediment of the very rainy year 1960 with the equally rainy year of 1980 we see that the last one brought 99 percent of silt and less than half a percent of aragonite and gypsum versus 14% of silt and 10%of aragonite and 76% of gypsum of the earlier years. The down flow of rivers and brooks made the chemical reaction of the above metals possible, but now it is non-existent. The pebbles are without coating.

Each summer bands of white salt that coat tree branches can be seen on the shores. It is a beautiful chemical garden. This happens due to the spray of the water on the shore namely the high evaporation and water being spread in a larger area causes the solidification of salt. When the rains appear all this is melted away.

In the seashore the formation of salt is rapid and the particles are tiny, but in the sediment it is slower forming crystals that are like square diamonds. The sediment in the Dead Sea is unique due to the lack of little animals (worms, mollusks etc) that could disrupt the horizontal alternate layering of different colours which is so particular to this Sea. It is 100 meters deep. By cutting a piece of earth we can see dark layers (silt brought by the river and streams) and light layers (aragonite and mineral formations) with these bigger cubic particles of salt. This sedimentation shows a seasonal yearly growth.