Dead Sea: The name given by Greek writers of the second century to that inland
sea called in Scripture the "salt sea"
(Genesis 14:3; Numbers 34:12) the "sea
of the plain"
(Deuteronomy 3:17) the "east sea"
(Ezekiel 47:18; Joel 2:20) and
simply "the sea"
(Ezekiel 47:8) The Arabs call it Bahr Lut, i.e., the
Sea of Lot. It lies about 16 miles in a straight line to the east of
Jerusalem. Its surface is 1,292 feet below the surface of the
Mediterranean Sea. It covers an area of about 300 square miles. Its
depth varies from 1,310 to 11 feet. From various phenomena that have
been observed, its bottom appears to be still subsiding. It is about
53 miles long, and of an average breadth of 10 miles. It has no
outlet, the great heat of that region causing such rapid evaporation
that its average depth, notwithstanding the rivers that run into it
is maintained with little variation. The Jordan alone discharges into
it no less than six million tons of water every twenty-four hours.
The waters of the Dead Sea contain 24 per cent. of mineral salts,
about seven times as much as in ordinary sea-water; thus they are
unusually buoyant. Chloride of magnesium is most abundant; next to
that chloride of sodium (common salt). But terraces of alluvial
deposits in the deep valley of the Jordan show that formerly one
great lake extended from the Waters of Merom to the foot of the
watershed in the Arabah. The waters were then about 1,400 feet above
the present level of the Dead Sea, or slightly above that of the
Mediterranean, and at that time were much less salt. Nothing living
can exist in this sea. "The fish carried down by the Jordan at once
die, nor can even mussels or corals live in it; but it is a fable
that no bird can fly over it, or that there are no living creatures
on its banks. Dr. Tristram found on the shores three kinds of
kingfishers, gulls, ducks, and grebes, which he says live on the fish
which enter the sea in shoals, and presently die. He collected one
hundred and eighteen species of birds, some new to science, on the
shores, or swimming or flying over the waters. The cane-brakes which
fringe it at some parts are the homes of about forty species of
mammalia, several of them animals unknown in England; and innumerable
tropical or semi-tropical plants perfume the atmosphere wherever
fresh water can reach. The climate is perfect and most delicious, and
indeed there is perhaps no place in the world where a sanatorium
could be established with so much prospect of benefit as at Ain Jidi
(Engedi).", Geikie's Hours, etc.