On November 15, a group of international swimmers – coming from the region and as far away as South Africa and New Zealand – will attempt something that has never been done before: swim across the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth and one of the saltiest bodies of water on the planet. It is one of the environmental wonders of the world and a place with deep regional, historical and biblical significance.
Why this swim, why now?
The Dead Sea has been steadily shrinking for the last several decades and it is in real danger of being drastically reduced in size in our lifetimes if tangible measures are not taken to save it. This Dead Sea Swim Challenge is a clarion call to leaders and citizens alike, that it is up to us – all of us – to save the Dead Sea and stop its continued degradation in our lifetime.
To swim across the Dead Sea however, is no simple feat. Due to the extreme salinity and harsh environmental conditions, to swim across the Dead Sea is literally a deadly challenge and can only be done by swimmers with tremendous dedication, courage, and sense of purpose.
These are some of the risks and challenges they will face in their quest:
- Extreme salt: With roughly 35 per cent salinity, (10 times saltier than the ocean) the Dead Sea presents many life-threatening challenges – not least – intake of water during the swim can be fatal.
- Special mask and snorkel: Due to the extremely salty water the swimmers will utilise a specially designed mask and snorkel that will allow them to complete the long swim without the potentially deadly intake of the Dead Sea's water.
- How can you swim if you are floating? Due to the high density of the Dead Sea you float unnaturally and have to adapt your swimming style and posture accordingly.
- It’s dangerous! A drop in the eye causes severe irritation and chance swallowing of the water can be fatal if not treated immediately. We will be accompanied by a professional medical team.
"This swim is particularly risky due to the high salinity of the water which, if ingested, could have a potentially fatal outcome. Unlike traditional marathon open water swims, where the swimmer receives no assistance other than a regular swimsuit, latex/silicone swim cap and goggles, this non-traditional swim will require the use of a specialized full face mask. I will be training extensively with this mask in the San Francisco Bay prior to the event." – Kimberly Chambers, Open Water Marathon and Extreme Swimmer, on training for the risks.
- Preparation: A swimmer should practice and experience these conditions of the Dead Sea at least once or twice prior to “D” day. Swimmers should practice swimming with the face mask at least 10 times for more than an hour, preferably at sea.
- Details of the swim: It will be approximately 16 kilometers. The swimmers will be accompanied by special boats that carry drinking water, water spray bottles, food and medical staff. With watering and feeding stops the swim will probably take six to seven hours.
- Important note: Although this swim is for marathon swimmers it is not designed as a race! Swimmers will be required to stay with their boat group. A swimmer can stop at any time during the swim and board the boat.
- Politics: This region is rife with conflict. Failed coordinated regional water management is at the core of the environmental crisis of the Dead Sea. The swim aims to remind the public that our shared natural resources should not be held hostage to politics.
"This swim, as opposed to all others, is risky in any sense – it is in harsh conditions, needs a specific support team including medical devices since the salinity here is almost 35 per cent and suffocation can be immediate. In addition the eyes cannot be exposed to such waters and so the whole configuration of the swim has to take this in consideration. We swim with a full mask and thus breathing is challenging (we swim free style).
"The swim will take six to seven constant hours. The Dead Sea, when windy, is close to impossible to swim due to the atomic weight fact of the waters…The biggest challenge will be the long time in these waters. The human skin might have its limits, though from our research it seems doable and we fear not. We'll meet in 50 years and see if we were right." – Oded Rahav, Open Water Swimmer, on some of the Risks and Challenges of the Swim.
Find out more about the Dead Sea Swim Challenge by reading our previous blog. Please join us in supporting this effort by following the Dead Sea Swim Challenge and sharing our news and progress on social media.
- This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.