Almost in the middle of the Asian continent lies the blue pearl of Siberia the lake that the ancient inhabitants of its surroundings, the Buryat people called the Rich Lake i.e. Baikal. The lake is surrounded by mountain ridges and is stretched for 636 kilometers long (approximately the same as from Moscow to Saint Petersburg) and 80 km wide. The area it occupies equals to the one of Belgium or Netherlands. Baikal contains one fifth of all the fresh water supply of the Earth.
According to recent calculations the number of Baikal’s tributaries counts up to 544 rivers and streams (324 on the gently sloping Eastern coast and 220 on the steep precipitous Western coast) when half of all the water is supplied by the Selenga river. The Angara is the only river flowing out.
The area of the clear mirror-like surface of the lake is 31500 square km with its maximum depth is 1637 m. Baikal is the world’s deepest and most transparent lake on Earth with its African rival Lake Tanganyika being 200 meters behind.
To realize how vast the Baikal water capacity is you need to imagine that it would take the Angara (carrying out 60.9 км3 of water annually) 387 years of continuous flow to exhaust the vessel of the lake with no drop of rain or tributaries refilling it.
The largest of Baikal’s 30 islands is the Olkhon with its exotic landscapes and unique flora and fauna. It is more than 70 km long and 12 km wide. Its highest 1300 meters peak is The Izhymey.
Scientists still argue about the birth date of the lake dating it back to 20-30 million years ago in some sources, still others consider it to go back to only dozens thousand years ago. The fact that the lake has its rich unique flora and fauna, 1340 species (more than a half) being endemic (found nowhere else), make most scientists tend to agree that it is the world’s oldest lake.
The amazingly clear water of the lake is rich in oxygen and was used as a medical treatment not long ago.
In the spring time Baikal water transparency is 40 meters due to 3 natural filters that purify the water and make it demineralized and almost distilled.
The volume of the lake is 23 000 cubic km which is 20 % of the world’s and 90 % of Russia’s fresh water resources. The lake contains more water than all five of the Great American lakes put together which only contain 22 725 км3. Baikal’s ecosystem produces 60 cubic km of fresh water enriched with oxygen.
Due to the physiographic factor of the lake its flora and fauna is exclusively diverse and Baikal has no equals among freshwater bodies.
salmon fish (Frolikh char, taimen, goldilocks, endemic Baikal Arctic cisco, pollan),
Despite being isolated from sea Baikal is the habitat of a typical sea mammal the seal or Baikal phoca. Is this the reason why locals call Baikal the sea? Almost all year round the seal stays in water and in the autumn they produce seal rookeries on the rocky shores of the lake.
The lake and its shores are an integrated limnological system; the life of Baikal is the life of its nearby land. On the edge of two elements water and land you can observe interesting life forms and phenomena that make up the idea of Baikal. Animals whose living is connected with both land and water inhabit the lake. Gulls, fish ducks, goldeneyes, scoters, oghars, white-tailed eagles, fish-hawks and many others nest on the shores and islands.
Baikal’s singularity can be observed in the Baikal’s cavity nature diversity. On the slopes of the lakes surroundings you can find the untouched by humans East Siberian Taiga inhabited by the world’s smallest musk deer and fur-bearing sable, and the brown bear.
The diversity of the lake’s 0organic life is stunning, but it is also very peculiar. Most of animals and plants are found nowhere else in the world. 848 of Baikal animal species (about 60%) and 133 plant species (15%) are endemic.
The lake is rightfully called the seventh world’s wonder, a precious gift from the nature, the Great Museum of living antiquities, the sacred Siberian Sea.
P.S. Come pay a visit to Lake Baikal to admire its beauties and savour its clear healthy water, to sense its mystic power shared with every visitor coming to its shores