For decades, scientists have been fascinated by the account in the Book of Exodus of how Moses and the Israelites were saved from the Pharaoh and his soldiers by a mighty east wind blowing all night and parting the waters of the Red Sea, letting them cross to safety before swallowing up their pursuers. Some have speculated about a tsunami, which would have caused waters to retreat and return rapidly. But that would not have led to the gradual receding waters recounted in the Bible. Other scientists calculated that hurricane-force winds could have exposed an underwater reef near the modern-day Suez Canal, although it would have also blown away the Israelites like Dorothy off to Kansas.
Now there's a new theory, put forward by scientists at NCAR and CU. NCAR researcher Carl Drews, the study's lead author, spent years pondering the story and came up with an alternative site for the crossing -- in the Nile Delta, roughly 75 miles north of the previously investigated Suez reef. While the waterways have changed in the area over the years, the research team used archeological data and satellite images to digitally recreate what the river might have looked like three millennia ago.
Then, using a variety of computer simulations, they found that an east wind blowing at 63 miles per hour and lasting for 12 hours would have pushed back the 6-foot-deep waters there (see animation below). The exposed mud flats, about two to two-and-a-half miles long and three miles wide, would have let Moses and his followers cross to safety, and then the water would have come rushing back -- leaving the Egyptians literally up the creek without a paddle.
Does this mean the Red Sea crossing occurred, and transpired just like this? No -- but it's an intriguing theory, one that's also a step forward for scientists looking into how winds impact water depths, such as how typhoons can drive dangerous storm surges.
Still, a better question to research would've been to investigate why, after playing the part of Moses and parting the Red Sea in the 1956 film The Ten Commandments, Charlton Heston went bat-shit crazy. Forget the parting of the Red Sea; that phenomenon just doesn't make sense at all.