Swimmers become the first people to cross the Dead Sea

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon

16 PHOTOS
Swimmers cross the Dead Sea for eco-campaign
See Gallery
Swimmers cross the Dead Sea for eco-campaign
A general view shows the shore of the Dead Sea as it is seen from off shore while environmental activists take part in "The Dead Sea Swim Challenge", swimming from the Jordanian to Israeli shore, to draw attention to the ecological threats facing the Dead Sea, in Kibbutz Ein Gedi, Israel November 15, 2016. REUTERS/Nir Elias
A research boat can be seen on the dead sea while environmental activists take part in "The Dead Sea Swim Challenge", swimming from the Jordanian to Israeli shore, to draw attention to the ecological threats facing the Dead Sea, in Kibbutz Ein Gedi, Israel November 15, 2016. REUTERS/Nir Elias
An environmental activist takes part in "The Dead Sea Swim Challenge", swimming from the Jordanian to Israeli shore, to draw attention to the ecological threats facing the Dead Sea, in Kibbutz Ein Gedi, Israel November 15, 2016. REUTERS/Nir Elias
Environmental activists take part in "The Dead Sea Swim Challenge", swimming from the Jordanian to Israeli shore, to draw attention to the ecological threats facing the Dead Sea, in Kibbutz Ein Gedi, Israel November 15, 2016. REUTERS/Nir Elias
Environmental activists react after they finish "The Dead Sea Swim Challenge", swimming from the Jordanian to Israeli shore, to draw attention to the ecological threats facing the Dead Sea, in Kibbutz Ein Gedi, Israel November 15, 2016. REUTERS/Nir Elias
Environmental activists take part in "The Dead Sea Swim Challenge", swimming from the Jordanian to Israeli shore, to draw attention to the ecological threats facing the Dead Sea, in Kibbutz Ein Gedi, Israel November 15, 2016. REUTERS/Nir Elias
Environmental activists wash themselves after they finish "The Dead Sea Swim Challenge", swimming from the Jordanian to Israeli shore, to draw attention to the ecological threats facing the Dead Sea, in Kibbutz Ein Gedi, Israel November 15, 2016. REUTERS/Nir Elias
An environmental activist adjusts his mask while taking part in "The Dead Sea Swim Challenge", swimming from the Jordanian to Israeli shore, to draw attention to the ecological threats facing the Dead Sea, in Kibbutz Ein Gedi, Israel November 15, 2016. REUTERS/Nir Elias
Environmental activists take part in "The Dead Sea Swim Challenge", swimming from the Jordanian to Israeli shore, to draw attention to the ecological threats facing the Dead Sea, in Kibbutz Ein Gedi, Israel November 15, 2016. REUTERS/Nir Elias
An environmental activist washes her face while taking part in "The Dead Sea Swim Challenge", swimming from the Jordanian to Israeli shore, to draw attention to the ecological threats facing the Dead Sea, in Kibbutz Ein Gedi, Israel November 15, 2016. REUTERS/Nir Elias
Mineral deposits can be seen at the shore of the dead sea near Kibbutz Ein Gedi, Israel November 15, 2016. REUTERS/Nir Elias
Environmental activists cheer each other as they finish "The Dead Sea Swim Challenge", swimming from the Jordanian to Israeli shore, to draw attention to the ecological threats facing the Dead Sea, in Kibbutz Ein Gedi, Israel November 15, 2016. REUTERS/Nir Elias
A research boat is seen on the dead sea while environmental activists take part in "The Dead Sea Swim Challenge", swimming from the Jordanian to Israeli shore, to draw attention to the ecological threats facing the Dead Sea, in Kibbutz Ein Gedi, Israel November 15, 2016. REUTERS/Nir Elias
Environmental activists cheer each other as they finish "The Dead Sea Swim Challenge", swimming from the Jordanian to Israeli shore, to draw attention to the ecological threats facing the Dead Sea, in Kibbutz Ein Gedi, Israel November 15, 2016. REUTERS/Nir Elias
Environmental activists take part in "The Dead Sea Swim Challenge", swimming from the Jordanian to Israeli shore, to draw attention to the ecological threats facing the Dead Sea, in Kibbutz Ein Gedi, Israel November 15, 2016. REUTERS/Nir Elias 
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

EIN GEDI, Israel, (Reuters) - Athletes and eco-activists swam across the Dead Sea on Tuesday, the first people to thrash their way over a body of water so salty that it poisons anyone who drinks it.

The swimmers crossed from Jordan to Israel to raise awareness of what they said was an environmental disaster that has shrunk the inland lake's surface by a third in 30 years.

The wore snorkels and face masks to stop the water - around 10 times saltier than the regular sea - from touching their eyes or entering their lungs during the seven-hour crawl.

A medical team accompanied the 28 swimmers, because ingestion of Dead Sea water can be fatal if not treated immediately, organizers said.

"This was unlike anything I've ever done," said Kim Chambers, 39, a renowned open-water swimmer from New Zealand.

The few drops of water that touched her eyes felt like acid she said. The crossing through water so salty and buoyant that it won't let you sink was challenging.

"The swim took incredible teamwork. We had unprecedented diplomatic support from Israel and Jordan to make it happen. That's what's needed to bring attention to an issue that needs attention right now," she said.

The sea which is mentioned in the Bible sits at the lowest point on Earth.

Environmental group EcoPeace Middle East, one of the organizers of the 15-km (9-mile) swim, said it had receded by about 25 meters (80 ft) over the past three decades alone.

The group blames Israeli and Jordanian mining, creating evaporation ponds from which minerals are extracted, and the diversion by Israel, Jordan and Syria of Jordan River water that feeds into the lake.

EcoPeace Middle East, whose members include Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians, said the event was aimed at highlighting the Dead Sea's plight and to urge government action to save the natural wonder, a popular tourist attraction.

"We see the life-threatening challenge of the swim as parallel to the challenges facing the Dead Sea," Gidon Bromberg, Israeli director of EcoPeace Middle East, said in a statement.

The Dead Sea, about 425 meters (1,400 feet) below sea level, is bordered by Israel, Jordan and the occupied West Bank.

Many visitors came for the therapeutic properties associated with its mineral-rich waters, and resort hotels have been built along the Israeli and Jordanian shores.

(Additional reporting by Luke Baker; Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners