The Dead SeaThe Dead Sea is a saltwater lake that lies between the countries of Israel and Jordan.

Dead Sea, an inland body of water southeast of Jerusalem on the border of Jordan and Israel. It has the lowest elevation on earth—1,373 feet (419 m) below sea level at the water's surface. The sea is divided into two basins, separated by a land bridge. Both basins are about 10 miles (16 km) wide. The northern one is about 40 miles (64 km) long; the southern one, about 10 miles (16 km) long. The combined area of both basins is about 390 square miles (1,010 km 2). The maximum depth, which exceeds 1,330 feet (405 m), is in the northern basin.

The Dead Sea lies in a deep rift valley, which is part of a great rift system running through the Holy Land, the Red Sea, and eastern Africa. Cliffs and steeply rising land flank the sea on the east and the west. The adjacent area is hot, dry, and desolate. The Jordan River, entering from the north, is the only river with a year-round flow that enters the sea. No river flows from it. Diversion of water from the Jordan River for irrigation has caused the sea to shrink.

Because it loses water only by evaporation, the Dead Sea has a high salt content. It runs more than 25 per cent, or seven times that of ocean water. Dead Sea water has a clear, blue-green color and a bitter, nauseous taste and is slightly oily to the touch. Its buoyancy makes it impossible for a swimmer to sink. There is virtually no life in the sea, except for bacteria and algae. Potash and bromine are the chief minerals extracted from the water for commercial use.

In Biblical times the sea was known by several names, including the Salt Sea, the East Sea, and the Sea of the Plain. Genesis tells of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, which are now believed to be submerged in the southern part of the sea. Masada, on the western shore, was the site in 73 a.d. of a heroic but hopeless stand against the Romans by a group of Jews known as the Zealots.