55 ° 47 ‘ to 51 ° 28’ North and 103 ° 43 ‘ to 10 9 ° 58’ East

Posted on January 1, 2011 by

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Imagine, that once you could manage to visit the place of your dreams – that is real happiness. Personally for me Baikal lake was such a place on the whole planet. This article will tell you some facts about this amazing lake so may be you can partly understand why it was a great wish of mine to be there.

General Information

Twenty percent of Earth’s fresh water is located in the southern part of Eastern Siberia. Lake Baikal is 3,1470 km2 in area, with a maximum depth 1,640 meters, and an average of 730, making it the deepest lake in the world. 336 permanent rivers flow into the lake, with the river Selenga bringing some half of the water. Out from Baikal flows only one river: the Angara. The lake has 30 islands, and the largest one is called Olkhon. Well, there’s some statistics. I should warn you though that, as will everything of this ilk, there’s some debate about the exact numbers!

Age of the Lake

Usually in the literature one finds the age of the lake to be around 20-25 Ma (millions of years). However this question is still open for further research. With different methods for defining the age one can come up with numbers from 20-30 Ma to only 10-30ka (thousand years). If the first number is closer to reality, this makes the lake the oldest on the planet.

The Lake’s Waters

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Baikal’s exceptionally clear waters

Baikal’s water is unique, like everything that is connected with this lake. It is unbelievably clean, transparent and thick with oxygen. Not so long ago people thought the

lake water to be curative. In the spring time transparency of the lake water is down to around 40 meters. This can be explained by the feeding activity of some of the lakes various fish and crayfish and low mineralisation – which make the contents almost akin to distilled water.

Climate

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Me basking in the sun on a Baikal beach. Despite the sun, cold air off the water keeps one chilly even in June.

The climate of Eastern Siberia is continental, but the incredible volume of water in the lake and its mountainous surrounding it create a special microclimate in the region. This lake works like a stabilizer – in the winter air is warmer and in the summer a little colder than, for example, in Irkutsk which is the biggest city near the lake (distance between them only 70 km). The difference in temperatures is usually around 10°C, which is quite considerable. The surrounding forests also make a significant contribution in to these remarkable microclimatic effects.

Rainfall is low and clear skies abound. There is only a small amount of cold-water evaporation form the lake, and cloud formation is not possible. Air masses that bring clouds from the surrounding land are broken up by the surrounding mountains. As a result most of the time the sky is clear. The amount of sunshine hours in Olkhon compares with that in Barcelona: 2277 hours per year in Olkhon compared with 2462 in the Catalan capital. Average water temperature of the lake surface is 4°C. Near to the shore in summer this can reach 16-17°C.

Despite sometimes idyllic conditions, the wind always blows. Local people have 30 different names for winds., though there is a good deal of synonymy. These winds almost always they blow along the lakeshore. Maximum wind speed was registered at around 60 meters per second. With an ever-present wind, waves at the lake can reach 4 meters high.

Flora and Fauna

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Baikal seals at the museum aquarium Baikal’s shoreline vegetation

2,600 species of animals and more than 1000 species of plants have been recorded to live in and around Baikal. Based on the size of the lake and its surroundings, exploration rate and other factors it is believed that at the present time only 70-80% of the species are known. Around 40% of the plants and 85% of animal species are endemic (can be found only in Baikal). Despite the great depth of the lake, organisms can be found throughout it. One of the rarest animals in the world inhabits its waters – the seal indigenous for this lake, the aptly-named Baikal seal, It is assumed that the seal came to the lake from the Arctic Sea during an ice age through the rivers Yenisei and Angara. Still today 30-40,000 of these animals can be seen in the central and northern parts of the lake. The seal changes its fur colour depending on the season: during winter they are white, and during summer grey. In 1996 this lake was included in the UNESCO List of Natural Heritage.

Baikal’s magic

So, that was my attempt to inform you about the deepest lake in the world – Baikal – a unique creature of nature born of climate, flora and fauna, history, tectonic structure, water, and other natural resources. If you have ever have a chance at least once to see this lake you will never forget it. People say that once you’ve been there you feel a strong urge to come back again, and just such an urge I feel after coming back from Baikal. The peoples who live in the region assign magic properties to the water of Baikal, its’ islands, rivers and capes. After you pay a visit at least some aspects of Baikal’s beauty, you clearly understand why it is magical.

Further reading and references

For given information about data I thank website http://www.magicbaikal.ru/ and workers of Байкальский музей ИНЦ СО РАН.

Photos are the author’s intellectual property.

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Posted in: Nature, Travel