Swim­mers wo h their salt cross Dead Sea

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

AGROUP of swim­mers braved the st­ing of ex­tremely salty wa­ters to cross the Dead Sea from Jor­dan to Is­rael on Novem­ber 15, a seven-hour chal­lenge that or­gan­is­ers de­scribed as a first.

The swim or­gan­ised by the Eco-Peace char­ity was aimed at rais­ing aware­ness for the iconic water body which has been re­ced­ing by roughly 1 me­tre each year.

The 26 ex­treme swim­mers from across the world, equipped with spe­cial masks due to the water’s high salin­ity, took seven hours to make the cross­ing, or­gan­is­ers said.

The dis­tance is only 17 kilo­me­tres (10.6 miles) and the min­eral-rich lake was calm, but the high amount of salt in the water makes it nearly im­pos­si­ble to swim nor­mally.

It has 10 times more salin­ity than the Mediter­ranean Sea, mean­ing bod­ies float to the top, and keep­ing un­der-water is dif­fi­cult.

“It was tougher than we ex­pected,” said Sa­muel Mo­ran, a 40-year-old Spa­niard.

“The worst was the sun and the feel­ing of the salt on your skin that is very ir­ri­tat­ing. You feel like you are burn­ing all the time,” he said, adding he felt like quit­ting “many times”.

The swim­mers, the old­est of whom was 68, wore spe­cially de­signed face masks as even a tiny amount of water in the mouth or eyes can cause agony.

Kim Chambers from New Zealand said she had swam ex­treme routes across the globe but this pre­sented a unique test.

“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.”

The Dead Sea’s coast­line is shared by Is­rael, Jor­dan and the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries and is the low­est point on earth, 400 me­tres be­low sea level.

But ex­perts have warned it is on course to dry out by 2050.

Gi­don Bromberg, EcoPeace Mid­dle East co-director, said the event was “a global call to save this amaz­ing sea”.

“This is the low­est place on earth, these are the deep­est saline wa­ters on the globe, a unique com­po­si­tion, and sadly for the last 50 years they have been dra­mat­i­cally on the de­cline,” he said.

The swim­mers came from across the globe, in­clud­ing New Zealand, South Africa and Is­rael. There were no Jor­da­ni­ans among them.

The Is­raeli army did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for con­fir­ma­tion it was the first-ever swim across the sea. ‘Po­ten­tially fa­tal’ The Dead Sea’s degra­da­tion started in the 1960s when Is­rael, Jor­dan and Syria be­gan to di­vert water from the Jor­dan River, its main source, largely for ir­ri­ga­tion.

The water level has dropped around 40 me­tres since its peak, said Yechieli Yoseph, a hy­dro­ge­ol­o­gist with the Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey of Is­rael.

Com­pa­nies also take out water to use the min­er­als in­side it for med­i­cal pur­poses, Yoseph added.

More than 4000 sink­holes have also formed along the Is­raeli, Pales­tinian and Jor­da­nian coasts since the 1980s, ac­cord­ing to Is­raeli re­search, with more than 400 per year in re­cent years.

“The Dead Sea is go­ing down mostly be­cause we have changed its water bal­ance – we mean­ing Is­rael, Jor­dan and Syria,” said Yoseph.

“Of the water that used to come to the Dead Sea, 90 per­cent of it or more is now be­ing taken.”

Stand­ing on the shore af­ter com­plet­ing the swim, a clearly emo­tional Chambers said the swim­mers had used the “power of swim­ming to show the world” the Dead Sea was in dan­ger.

But Yoseph said the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate be­tween the coun­tries in­volved made mean­ing­ful solutions dif­fi­cult.

Is­rael and Jor­dan signed a peace treaty in 1994 but re­la­tions be­tween the two sides re­main frosty, while Syria has descended into civil war.

Yoseph said Is­rael could po­ten­tially af­ford to stop tak­ing water as it has ad­vanced de­sali­na­tion meth­ods but it was “not a pos­si­ble de­ci­sion” for water-sparse Jor­dan.

“There is no real so­lu­tion. You can talk about re­strain­ing maybe but that is also very dif­fi­cult.” –

Photos: AFP

A wo­man tak­ing part in an 18-kilo­me­tre swim from Jor­dan to Is­rael across the Dead Sea, or­gan­ised by the EcoPeace char­ity aimed at rais­ing aware­ness for the iconic water body which has been re­ced­ing by roughly a me­tre each year, gives the thumbs-up upon the set­ting out from Jor­dan on Novem­ber 15.

Photo: AFP

The 26 swim­mers used spe­cial equip­ment to pro­tect them from the water’s high salin­ity and crossed the water in seven hours.

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