Israel's Dead Sea Sinkholes

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The Dead Sea located in Jordan, Israel, is the only place on the globe where the crust of planet Earth declines to an "in-depth low" of minus 416 meters below sea level. It runs more than 50 miles in length, and stretches 11 miles across at its widest points, bordering Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan. This location is also known for its saltiest water in the world, because the water at Dead Sea is six times as salty as the ocean. Due to the salty water, there are no fish or any kind of creatures living in or near the water. This destination is filled with tourists throughout the year because of the unpolluted air that helps purify respiratory systems and the 33.7% salinity level of the sea water is the major center for health research and treatment.

Sinkholes are developed when the overlying ground collapses into underground soil due to the sedimentary rocks which are soluble in water, allowing them to dissolve. The underground craters open up instantly, making is impossible for those on the ground floor to escape. Since the recent decade, there are more than 1500 sinkholes along the western coast of the Dead Sea, with 200-300 additional sinkholes each year. All of these occur within a narrow strip 60 km wide and each sinkholes are less than 1km wide. To prevent tourists from injury, large sections of the coast are fenced off and signs are posted in Hebrew and English: "Warning of Sinkholes".
Figure 2: each circle represents the sinkholes <>

Recent accident
In April 2009, Geologist, Eli Raz wandered into an area that had no warning signs. While he was busy documenting, taking pictures, and taking notes, within an instant, he found himself on the bottom of a sinkhole. He had spent 14 hours at the bottom of the sinkhole before his rescue and even wrote his will because he didn't know if he would of been saved. With his personal experience as his support, he is planning to prevent others from this traumatic incident by leading an effort to map the sinkholes that are spreading. By detecting potential sinkholes, it can dramatically help decrease the number of damages that had been caused to the environment and also decrease a potential threat to the tourist and agricultural industry.
Video 1: FoxNews reports on Dead Sea Sinkholes <>.

Since the early 1960s, the Deal Sea had shrunk by a third in size because Israel and Jordan built plants to divert water flowing from the main source, the Jo
Figure 3 Sinkholes like this are spreading near the Black Sea <>
Figure 3 Sinkholes like this are spreading near the Black Sea <>
rdan River. Due to this change, the subterranean salt layer had dissolved by underground fresh water which caused the formation of Dead Sea sinkholes. Because these sinkholes can cause major damages to the nearby tourist attractions and agricultural industry, Jordan, and Turkey representatives met to plan out the "Disi pipeline project". They had agreed to plan and study a pipe water from the Red Sea to the shrinking Dead Sea in order to supply much needed fresh water from desalination as well as replenish the rapidly diminishing Dead Sea water levels. In September 2002, the project's estimation cost was $800 million, which made it the biggest joint venture between the two countries.
Currently as of December 13th, 2009, Jordanian water pipeline construction had already started and the project's estimated cost is being covered with the aide of Turkey and two European investment agencies that have provided an estimated $1 billion, giving this project the right "push" that was needed to get this project started. The Disi Conveyance Project will tap water from the Disi aquifer, an underground reserve located on the border between Jordan and Saudi Arabia, carrying 3.5 billion cubic feet of water. This project will give major impact to Jordan because Jordan is considered one of the ten most water-scarce countries in the world and domestic water usage is often restricted. The completion of the Disi pipeline is scheduled for 2013 and is suppose to cover 30% of water's needs.

Accident Preventions
Although Israel's comptroller criticize and blame the country's own ministries for lack of effort to fix the situation, thankfully other organizations are putting much time in order to solve this situation. Lev Eppelbaum from Department of Geophysics and Planetary Sciences, Tel Aviv University had developed a "methodology of combining geophysical prediction of sinkholes appearing at the Dead Sea costal plane." With the support from NATO Science for Peace Program, colleagues from the University of Grenoble in France and academies from Jordan, this 3-D echo monitoring device that can locate a potential sinkhole, due to having weaker gravitational field than the surrounding area, can help reduce the number of injuries and further prevent it from happening. Now we need to create at least few geophysical teams with the aim of constant geophysical monitoring of the dangerous area. Also the Geophysical Institute of Israel collaborated with Geological Survey of Israel to locate sinkholes when they are being created and monitoring the process of sinkholes can help reveal dangerous sinkhole zones in their early stages. When sinkholes become dangerous, they are planning to fill in the sinkholes with cement or initiate the collapse before it would happen naturally.

Figure 4: dwindling water level of the Dead Sea <>
Figure 4: dwindling water level of the Dead Sea <>
Dead Sea is widely recognized as the world's saltiest sea, attracting numerous amount of tourists every year. In order to maintain the popularity and attractiveness, it is very important to further prevent sinkholes from happening. Also, public recognition about the current Dead Sea's dangerous situation needs to be spread to further emphasize on the dropped sea level and sea being shrunk by more than a third. The sinkholes also have caused plans to build a hotel to be scrapped and forced camp grounds to close. The Israeli government has even been forced to close a small naval base, making even a bigger economic impact.

1. Householder, Grace. "Dead Sea." The Hold Land Close Up. Kendallville Publishing Company , Web. 18 Feb 2010. <>. (See figure 1)
2. Arkin , Yacoov, Arie Gilat, and Lev Kofman. "Dead Sea Sinkholes." Geological Survey of Israel. Geological Survey of Israel , Web. 18 Feb 2010. <>. (See figure 2)
3. "Dead Sea sinkholes swallow up plans." Associated Press 06212009: n. pag. Web. 18 Feb 2010. <>. (See figure 3)
4. Picow, Maurice. "Ever Get That Sinking Feeling? Dead Sea Sinkhole Swallows Student." Green Prophet. 26042009. Jerusalem Post, Web. 18 Feb 2010. <>.
5. "Sinkhole Swallows Hiker." National Geographic. 29 Jun 2009. National Geographic , Web. 18 Feb 2010. <>.
6. "Dead Sea Sinkholes Swallow Anything in Their Way." The Huffington Post. 23 Jul 2009. The Huffington Post, Web. 18 Feb 2010. <>. (See video)
7. (See figure 4)