Wooster Geologists in the Dead Sea

LizzieStephDeadSea071213MITZPE RAMON, ISRAEL–The Wooster Geologists in Israel spent their last full day in the country visiting the Dead Sea Rift Valley and an archaeological site. It feels very good to have packed our hiking boots away for the season. Above, of course, is Lizzie Reinthal and Steph Bosch floating in the hypersaline waters of the Dead Sea at an almost deserted Ein Gedi beach. The surface of the water here is at -427 meters, or about 1400 feet below sealevel, making it the lowest point on land. The water Lizzie and Steph are floating in is 8.6 times saltier than typical seawater. This means I don’t have to worry about anyone drowning here. (Swallowing the water and getting it in eyes and ears is another story!)

OscarDeadSea071213Oscar Mmari was there as well. His style was a bit more relaxed. He was no doubt pondering that the amount of bromine in these waters (at 4.2 g/kg) is the highest anywhere on Earth.

SodomSaltStudents071213On the way to Ein Gedi we stopped by the famous Mount Sodom — a mountain of salt. This is a famous salt diapir, or a salt dome that has reached the surface. The layers of salt here are vertical because of deformation caused by the upward movement of the material. The salt, mostly halite, moves up because it is less dense and more plastic than the overlying sediments.

SodomSalt071213This is a close view of the salt layers. It is very difficult to distinguish original sedimentary layers from planes developed by shear stress.

LotWifeSodomSalt071213The spot we briefly explored is underneath a jointed block of salt referred to as “Lot’s Wife”. Remember her? In Genesis she looked back at the destruction of Sodom and was turned into a pillar of salt. If this is her she was about 60 feet tall.


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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