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The Dead Sea

THE Dead, or Salt, Sea is in some respects the most remarkable inland sea of the world. In shape it is an irregular oval. The shores are much indented in parts. A tongue of land, about five miles wide where it leaves the straight coast, projects high to the sea about seven miles, and then curves toward the north; and at its end, near the west shore, it is nine miles long.

This sea is forty geographical miles in length, and its greatest width is nine miles, although these dimensions vary somewhat according to the time of the year. Its greatest depth is about thirteen hundred feet; and the surface of the sea is some thirteen hundred feet below the level of the Mediterranean Sea; thus making it the most depressed sheet of water in the world. This large body of water has no visible outlet, and it is believed there can be no invisible one; indeed, the evaporation is amply sufficient to carry off the supply without an outlet, though the volume of water daily poured into it by the Jordan and other smaller tributaries is immense.

The water of the Dead Sea is intensely salty exceeding in this respect that of any known sea or lake. It is clear and transparent, and its specific gravity is so great that the human body will float upon it with ease; and those that cannot swim in other waters have no difficulty in doing so here. Eggs float in the water when only two thirds immersed. It has been thought that no life could subsist about the sea; that no bird could cross its waters; that the waters were dull and motionless, and their steam deadly. These notions are now nearly all exploded. On account of the rapid evaporation, during most of the year there hangs over the bosom of the lake a deep haze, which to the ancients gave the appearance of ''the smoke going up forever and ever." "Living creatures, though of a low type, have been found in the waters; and animals, birds, and especially reptiles, throng the neighboring thickets, while ducks and other aquatic birds have been observed swimming and diving in its waters. Most of these are said to be of a stone color, so as to easily escape notice. Lighted up by the rising or setting sun, the tints of the mountains around the sea are very gorgeous."

Concerning the general aspect of the sea, Hodder, in his volume, "On Holy Ground," says: "Before us, stretched the long chain of the mountains of Moab, like a huge blue wall, and beneath it lay that great and melancholy marvel, the Dead Sea. It was a view which I had not expected, never having associated the idea of beauty with the Dead Sea, or the wilderness of Judea; but from the height on which we were, the view was very fine. We noticed as we descended to the plain what so many travelers have observed and described, resembling an exhalation like a white cloud rising from the sea, in exquisite relief with the dark blue hills of Moab behind it.

"At length we reached the plain, and making our way through a strange jungle of curious vegetation, we came to the shore of the lake. Here again I was especially disappointed, and looked in vain for the awful gloom and deathliness I had expected to find. Though the shore in some places was strewn with masses of dead and whitened driftwood, the water looked bewitchingly bright and beautiful, and reflected every minute detail of the surroundings, as in a burnished mirror. But this was my first impression. After an hour or two upon its shore I experienced its awful stillness, and felt the absence of life. I cannot define the solitude of the place. There is something which you can feel more than you can see. It is a striking picture of mingled beauty and desolation." Another writer says that no one can spend a day on its shores without instinctively feeling that the name which so many ages have attached to the lake is fitly applied.

These are only a few of the interesting facts that might be given in regard to this wonderful sea, but perhaps enough has been said to interest the reader, and thus lead him to further study of the subject for himself.

The Youth's Instructor