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Scientists Propose How Red Sea was Parted

( [email protected] ) Sep 28, 2010 10:12 AM EDT

The parting of the Red Sea is one of the most famous stories in the Bible and now scientists believe they have figured out how it actually happened.

Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado used computer simulations to gauge the impact of a strong wind on the Red Sea.

They concluded that a strong east wind of 60 mph, blowing for 12 hours, could have pushed back waters at a bend where a river flowed into nearby lagoon. This in turn would have created a land bridge that would have been wide enough for people to walk across.

"The simulations match fairly closely with the account in Exodus," said Carl Drews, who led the team of researchers.

The Old Testament account tells of how Moses stretched out his staff over the sea and divided the waters. The biblical passage states: "all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land."

The Israelites, who were fleeing from Pharaoh's army, were then able to cross.

Drew explained that the parting of the waters can be understood through "fluid dynamics."

"Wind setdown occurs when wind blows across a body of water and part of the water level drops and so it exposes dry area," he said. "That's a well-known phenomenon. But the tricky part is to get water on both sides of the crossing."

The biblical account, he noted, describes a wall of water being on both the left and right of the Israelites when crossing.

Previous researchers tried to duplicate this and proposed that an underwater reef was exposed and that was where the crossing took place.

Drews, however, found in his research that it is difficult to make the reef "completely dry" in the course of 12 hours.

Thus, he proposed another mechanism where there is a bend in the body of water.

"When the wind blows, the water shifts and splits at the point of the bend," he explained. "And such a place occurs in the Eastern Nile Delta."

The research team used data from satellite images and maps, as well as archaeological records to recreate the lagoon as it would have been 3,000 years ago.

The findings are published in the latest edition of the PLoS One journal.