Dead Sea

On the Dead Sea, afloat with a parasol


U 5.37-9: Where was the chap I saw in that picture somewhere? Ah, yes, in the dead sea floating on his back, reading a book with a parasol open.

Descriptions of travellers floating on their back in the Dead Sea whilst reading a book or a newspaper may be found from at least the mid nineteenth century. Edward Montague’s Narrative of the late expedition to the Dead Sea (1849) is a typical early example:

Persons will, therefore, readily believe that when one tries to swim in it his legs are buoyed up to the surface of the water, which is a very uncomfortable position for a swimmer. It is not difficult to believe that one can float here, and comfortably read the newspaper, or convey his experiments to the pages of his note-book. (ch. 35, p. 224)

By the time W. D. McCracken’s New Palestine (pp. 224-5) was published in 1922, the idea had already become a traveller's stereotype: "One can float as though lying in bed, and, hoisting a sunshade, can read at one's ease [...]"

As soon as cameras made it possible, the miraculous spectacle was revealed pictorially to the members of an incredulous public, with Leopold Bloom, or rather his inventor, among them:

Around the Dead Sea. Man floating with book and umbrella in hands
Enlargement from a stereograph dated 1900-20; Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington
(credit details)
Harald Beck

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