Baikal Lake is the deepest lake in the world, and even though there are some lakes that take up bigger surface area, none of them contain as much water. As seen from space, the lake – which is 636 kilometers long and up to 80 kilometers wide – looks like a half-closed blue eye. It contains 20 % of all fresh water on Earth, which is more than the total amount of water in the five Great Lakes in North America. It is over 1600 meters deep. If the lake suddenly dried up, it would take a year for all the rivers of the world to re-fill it.
Sailing across is quite strange, because the water is so incredibly clear that even where the depth is fifty meters, one can still see everything so clearly as if looking through air. This is because of zooplankton, which purifies water by removing algae and bacteria that make many lakes dark and murky. They are assisted by numerous freshwater crustaceans that feed on organic waste that would otherwise be dissecting the lake.
Besides being famous for its crystal clarity, the water itself is unusually rich in oxygen. In other deep lakes, water at certain depths remains oxygen free, so most of the organisms live relatively close to the surface. In Lake Baikal there are vertical and horizontal currents that mix water and allow oxygen to reach bottom of the lake. So the whole lake is teeming with life. Over 2,000 species of living organisms live there, and 1,500 of them are endemic.
Lake is frozen for about five months of the year. Although it is quite thick, the ice looks very thin – so much that those who walk on it can see rocks on the bottom of the lake.
From late April to June the ice cracks loudly. Sounds that at that time are constantly spreading across the lake, form a “melody” that is well known among nearby population.
After that the wind and the waves gather the remaining ice in the glittering compositions and push it to the shore, creating another attraction.
Tens of thousands of Baikal seals live there, the only seals that live in fresh water. No one can explain how is it possible for this seals to live in the middle of Siberia and why there are none of them anywhere else in the world. When the ice melts, the birds return to the lake. In June, visitors can see families of bears that come ashore to feed with the larvae of insects called caddisflie.
On the coast you can see sand dunes and majestic steep cliffs. There are many beautiful bays and headlands that offer superb views on glittering expanse, a landscape that is constantly changing while the lake in the distance merges with the sky. In the second part of the year storms often arise on the lake. In the autumn winds that arrive sometimes are strong like hurricanes. They can, in no time, stir the calm surface of the lake and create an explosive waves, up to six meters high.
Lake Baikal is listed in the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage and has become a real tourist attraction. Every year it is visited by over 300,000 tourists from around the world. Thanks to its beautiful beaches and excellent opportunities for walking, hiking, bird watching and boating, the lake has a great potential to become one of the most attractive tourist destinations in Asia.