The expansion of massive salt evaporation projects on the Dead Sea are clearly visible in this time series of images taken by Landsat satellites operated by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey.
The Dead Sea is so named because its natural salinity discourages the growth of fish, plants and other wildlife. The sea exists because the land has been sinking for millennia due to the continents of Africa and Asia pulling away from each other. This depression makes the lake the lowest surface feature on Earth at about 1,300 feet (nearly 400 meters) below sea level. On a hot dry summer day, the surface of the Dead Sea can drop as much as one inch (two to three centimeters) because of evaporation.
The sea has attracted visitors for thousands of years. Between 1947 and 1956, a series of 972 ancient texts were discovered in caverns near the sea's northeastern shore. These Dead Sea Scrolls were written on papyrus and paper and contained details from the Hebrew Bible and other biblical documents.
The ancient Egyptians also used salts from the Dead Sea for mummification, fertilizers and potash (a potassium-based salt). In the modern age, the sodium chloride and potassium salts culled from the sea are also used in part for water conditioning, road de-icing and by the chemical industry for the manufacturing of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics.