A salt cave in Mount Sodom, Israel

MITZPE RAMON, ISRAEL–Yes, that Sodom. This morning Melissa, Yoav, Noa and I visited a cave formed in Mount Sodom in the Dead Sea Rift Valley. Mount Sodom is a remarkable mountain of halite (sodium chloride — table salt) with very complex internal bedding. It was formed (and is still forming) as subsurface salt was forced above ground by massive overpressure of more dense sands and gravels. It is thus an excellent example of a diapir and a salt dome. The salt extends steeply upwards with its bedding mostly vertical on the outer flanks of the mountain.

Mount Sodom has thousands of caves formed as rainwater drains through the mountains. It often forms giant vertical solution cavities and then horizontal rooms and tunnels at their bases. These caves are, like most caves, cool on the inside. The solution cavities act like reverse chimneys bringing in breezes that flow out the channels below. Very pleasant places.

Melissa on her way into the salt cave. She is walking alongside a vertical wall of pure halite.

This anticline in the salt is one of the simpler structural features. There are also overturned folds, numerous faults, and serious brecciated layers. All of these features are related to the easily-deformed salt squeezing its way to the surface.

It is impossible to do justice to these majestic solution cavities with a photograph. The white salt reflects the sunlight all too well, and the lower reaches are relatively dark. Plus this cavity is probably 200 or more meters high. I think Yoav and Noa have suitably awestruck poses here! Without them with us we would not have found this cave or had the courage to enter.

About Mark Wilson

Mark Wilson is a Professor of Geology at The College of Wooster. He specializes in invertebrate paleontology, carbonate sedimentology, and stratigraphy. He also is an expert on pseudoscience, especially creationism.
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