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Name: Brittany P.
Status: educator
Age: 20s
Location: N/A 
Country: N/A
Date: 9/22/2004

Is it possible for a submarine to dive in the Dead Sea?

Yes, it can. A small research submarine will need to take on extra ballast in order to submerge. Also, the maximum permissible diving depth is less because of the greater density of the water above it. I don't know about big submarines.

Bob Erck


Well, there are a couple of ways to answer your question, but the short answer is yes, it is possible for a submarine to dive in the Dead Sea. In fact, any object with a density greater than the density of the salt water in the Dead Sea will sink into it.

The way that submarines operate is to have large tanks (called ballast tanks) that are always open to sea water at the bottom and have valves that open or close at the top. When the tanks are filled with air and the top valves are closed, the submarine is buoyant and floats at the surface. When the submarine is ready to dive, the valves at the top of the ballast tanks are opened and air exits the top of the ballast tanks, water rushes in from the bottom, and the submarine becomes less buoyant and sinks (dives) into the water. Below the surface, the top valves of the ballast tanks are shut, and high pressure air (stored in tanks on board the submarine) can be forced into the ballast tanks (forcing the water out of the open valves at the bottom) to make the submarine become more buoyant and come back to the surface again.

The point is, water from the sea that the submarine is in is used to fill its ballast tanks. So the relatively denser water (compared to most salt water) of the Dead Sea would be used to fill the ballast tanks of a submarine in the Dead Sea -- and the submarine would be able to sink (dive) into the water.

Todd Clark, Office of Science
U.S. Department of Energy

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