Not content with breaking the record for the world’s highest swim, an international team of swimmers are now set to take on the world’s lowest – and saltiest – swim. Thirty-five swimmers aim to swim 16km across the Dead Sea, 423m below sea level, in water that is ten times saltier than that of the normal ocean. The high salt content can cause severe sodium poisoning and electrolyte imbalances if swallowed and blindness if water gets in the eyes.
“The effects of the water are so dramatic that this becomes our most technical swim to date,” says Evan Feldman, Madswimmer and coordinator of the Dead Sea Swim. “One glass of Dead Sea water is enough to kill a human if there is no immediate help. Just one sip swallowed will mean the end of the swim for that person. Nausea and cramps and spasms will follow. One drop in the eye will burn as if your eye has been set alight. It is a harsh environment. This together with the real chance of dehydration make for a tough swim.”
To combat the high salt content of the water the swimmers will wear a specially designed full-face snorkelling mask, allowing them to completely immerse their faces in the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea Swim is being organised by Madswimmer, Cyprus Israel Swim and Ecopeace to raise awareness of the degeneration of the Dead Sea. Generations of over-farming, pollution and poor and uncoordinated management policies have led to the depletion of the Dead Sea. Water levels are dropping at the rate of almost a metre per year, caused by mineral industries using the water for extraction and the diversion of the River Jordan.
“The Dead Sea is dying,” says Feldman. “We stand a chance of losing this natural wonder if there is no further intervention.”