|Lake type||Continental rift lake|
|Primary inflows||Selenga, Barguzin, Upper Angara|
|Catchment area||560,000 km2 (216,000 sq mi)|
|Basin countries||Russia and Mongolia|
|Max. length||636 km (395 mi)|
|Max. width||79 km (49 mi)|
|Surface area||31,722 km2 (12,248 sq mi)|
|Average depth||744.4 m (2,442 ft)|
|Max. depth||1,642 m (5,387 ft)|
|Water volume||23,615.39 km3 (5,670 cu mi)|
|Residence time||330 years|
|Shore length1||2,100 km (1,300 mi)|
|Surface elevation||455.5 m (1,494 ft)|
|Islands||27 (Olkhon Island)|
|Settlements||Severobaykalsk, Slyudyanka, Baykalsk, Ust-Barguzin|
|UNESCO World Heritage Site|
|Criteria||Natural: vii, viii, ix, x|
|Inscription||1996 (20th Session)|
|1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.|
Lake Baikal ( /
Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although, nowadays, nearly three decades after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia, the rise of state-specific varieties of this language tends to be strongly denied in Russia, in line with the Russian World ideology.
Romanization of Russian is the process of transliterating the Russian language from the Cyrillic script into the Latin script.
Buryat or Buriat is a variety of the Mongolic languages spoken by the Buryats that is classified either as a language or major dialect group of Mongolian.
Lake Baikal is the largest freshwater lake by volume in the world, containing 22–23% of the world's fresh surface water. 23,615.39 km3 (5,670 cu mi) of fresh water, it contains more water than the North American Great Lakes combined. With a maximum depth of 1,642 m (5,387 ft), Baikal is the world's deepest lake. It is considered among the world's clearest lakes and is considered the world's oldest lake – at 25–30 million years. It is the seventh-largest lake in the world by surface area.With
Surface water is water on the surface of the planet such as in a river, lake, wetland, or ocean. It can be contrasted with groundwater and atmospheric water.
The Great Lakes, also called the Laurentian Great Lakes and the Great Lakes of North America, are a series of interconnected freshwater lakes primarily in the upper mid-east region of North America, on the Canada–United States border, which connect to the Atlantic Ocean through the Saint Lawrence River. They consist of Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, although hydrologically, there are four lakes, Superior, Erie, Ontario, and Michigan-Huron. The connected lakes form the Great Lakes Waterway.
An ancient lake is a lake that has consistently carried water for more than one million years. Many have existed for more than 2.6 million years, the full Quaternary period. Ancient lakes continue to persist due to plate tectonics in an active rift zone. This active rift zone creates lakes that are extremely deep and difficult to naturally fill with sediment. Due to the prolonged life of ancient lakes, they serve as models for isolated evolutionary traits and speciation.
Like Lake Tanganyika, Lake Baikal was formed as an ancient rift valley, having the typical long, crescent shape with a surface area of 31,722 km2 (12,248 sq mi). Baikal is home to thousands of species of plants and animals, many of which exist nowhere else in the world. The lake was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. It is also home to Buryat tribes who reside on the eastern side of Lake Baikal, raising goats, camels, cattle, sheep, and horses, where the mean temperature varies from a winter minimum of −19 °C (−2 °F) to a summer maximum of 14 °C (57 °F).
Lake Tanganyika is an African Great Lake. It is the second oldest freshwater lake in the world, the second largest by volume, and the second deepest, in all cases after Lake Baikal in Siberia. It is the world's longest freshwater lake. The lake is divided among four countries – Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burundi, and Zambia, with Tanzania (46%) and DRC (40%) possessing the majority of the lake. The water flows into the Congo River system and ultimately into the Atlantic Ocean.
A rift valley is a linear shaped lowland between several highlands or mountain ranges created by the action of a geologic rift or fault. A rift valley is formed on a divergent plate boundary, a crustal extension or spreading apart of the surface, which is subsequently further deepened by the forces of erosion. When the tensional forces are strong enough to cause the plate to split apart, a center block drops between the two blocks at its flanks, forming a graben. The drop of the center creates the nearly parallel steeply dipping walls of a rift valley when it is new. That feature is the beginning of the rift valley, but as the process continues, the valley widens, until it becomes a large basin that fills with sediment from the rift walls and the surrounding area. One of the best known examples of this process is the East African Rift. On Earth, rifts can occur at all elevations, from the sea floor to plateaus and mountain ranges in continental crust or in oceanic crust. They are often associated with a number of adjoining subsidiary or co-extensive valleys, which are typically considered part of the principal rift valley geologically.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris. Its declared purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter. It is the successor of the League of Nations' International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.
The region to the east of Lake Baikal is referred to as Transbaikalia, and the loosely defined region around the lake is sometimes known as simply Baikalia.
Baikalia is a vague geographical term referring to the region around Lake Baikal. It is less common than the concept of Transbaikalia, the area to the east of Lake Baikal. The term Baikalia is loosely defined and has no official definition.
Lake Baikal is in a rift valley, created by the Baikal Rift Zone, where the Earth's crust is slowly pulling apart. 636 km (395 mi) long and 79 km (49 mi) wide, Lake Baikal has the largest surface area of any freshwater lake in Asia, at 31,722 km2 (12,248 sq mi), and is the deepest lake in the world at 1,642 m (5,387 ft). The bottom of the lake is 1,186.5 m (3,893 ft) below sea level, but below this lies some 7 km (4.3 mi) of sediment, placing the rift floor some 8–11 km (5.0–6.8 mi) below the surface, the deepest continental rift on Earth. In geological terms, the rift is young and active – it widens about 2 cm (0.8 in) per year. The fault zone is also seismically active; hot springs occur in the area and notable earthquakes happen every few years. The lake is divided into three basins: North, Central, and South, with depths about 900 m (3,000 ft), 1,600 m (5,200 ft), and 1,400 m (4,600 ft), respectively. Fault-controlled accommodation zones rising to depths about 300 m (980 ft) separate the basins. The North and Central basins are separated by Academician Ridge, while the area around the Selenga Delta and the Buguldeika Saddle separates the Central and South basins. The lake drains into the Angara tributary of the Yenisei. Notable landforms include Cape Ryty on Baikal's northwest coast.At
The Baikal Rift Zone is a series of continental rifts centered beneath Lake Baikal in southeastern Russia. Current strain in the rifts tends to be extending with some shear movement. A series of basins form along the zone for more than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi), creating a rift valley. The rifts form between the Eurasian Plate to the west and the Amur Plate to the east.
Sediment is a naturally occurring material that is broken down by processes of weathering and erosion, and is subsequently transported by the action of wind, water, or ice or by the force of gravity acting on the particles. For example, sand and silt can be carried in suspension in river water and on reaching the sea bed deposited by sedimentation and if buried, may eventually become sandstone and siltstone.
An earthquake is the shaking of the surface of the Earth, resulting from the sudden release of energy in the Earth's lithosphere that creates seismic waves. Earthquakes can range in size from those that are so weak that they cannot be felt to those violent enough to toss people around and destroy whole cities. The seismicity, or seismic activity, of an area is the frequency, type and size of earthquakes experienced over a period of time. The word tremor is also used for non-earthquake seismic rumbling.
Baikal's age is estimated at 25–30 million years, making it the most ancient lake in geological history.It is unique among large, high-latitude lakes, as its sediments have not been scoured by overriding continental ice sheets. Russian, U.S., and Japanese cooperative studies of deep-drilling core sediments in the 1990s provide a detailed record of climatic variation over the past 6.7 million years. Longer and deeper sediment cores are expected in the near future. Lake Baikal is the only confined freshwater lake in which direct and indirect evidence of gas hydrates exists.
Geology is an earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which they change over time. Geology can also refer to the study of the solid features of any terrestrial planet or natural satellite such as Mars or the Moon. Modern geology significantly overlaps all other earth sciences, including hydrology and the atmospheric sciences, and so is treated as one major aspect of integrated earth system science and planetary science.
The lake is completely surrounded by mountains. The Baikal Mountains on the north shore, the Barguzin Range on the northeastern shore, and the taiga are technically protected as a national park. It contains 27 islands; the largest, Olkhon, is 72 km (45 mi) long and is the third-largest lake-bound island in the world. The lake is fed by as many as 330 inflowing rivers. The main ones draining directly into Baikal are the Selenga River, the Barguzin River, the Upper Angara River, the Turka River, the Sarma River, and the Snezhnaya River. It is drained through a single outlet, the Angara River.
Baikal is one of the clearest lakes in the world. 30–40 m (100–130 ft), but during the summer it is typically 5–8 m (15–25 ft). Baikal is rich in oxygen, even in deep sections, which separates it from distinctly stratified bodies of water such as Lake Tanganyika and the Black Sea.During the winter in open sections the water transparency can be as much as
In Lake Baikal, the water temperature varies significantly depending on location, depth, and time of the year. During the winter and spring, the surface freezes for 5–6 months; from early January to May–June (latest in the north), the entire lake surface is covered in ice. 0.5 to 1.4 m (1.6–4.6 ft), but in some places with hummocks, it can be more than two metres (6.6 ft). During this period, the temperature slowly increases with depth in the lake, being coldest near the ice-covered surface at around freezing, and reaching about 3.5–3.8 °C (38.3–38.8 °F) at a depth of 200–250 m (660–820 ft). After the surface ice breaks up, the surface water is slowly warmed up by the sun, and in May–June, the upper 300 m (980 ft) or so becomes homothermic (same temperature throughout) at around 4 °C (39 °F) because of water mixing. The sun continues to heat up the surface layer, and at the peak in August can reach up to about 16 °C (61 °F) in the main sections and 20–24 °C (68–75 °F) in shallow bays in the southern half of the lake. During this time, the pattern is inverted compared to the winter and spring, as the water temperature falls with increasing depth. As the autumn begins, the surface temperature falls again and a second homothermic period at around 4 °C (39 °F) of the upper circa 300 m (980 ft) occurs in October–November. In the deepest parts of the lake, from about 300 m (980 ft), the temperature is very stable at 3.1–3.4 °C (37.6–38.1 °F) with only minor annual variations.On average, the ice reaches a thickness of
The average surface temperature has risen by almost 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) in the last 50 years, resulting in a shorter period where the lake is covered by ice. 50 °C (122 °F) have been found. These are mostly in deep water, but locally have also been found in relatively shallow water. They have very little effect on the lake's temperature because of its huge volume.At some locations, hydrothermal vents with water that is about
Stormy weather on the lake is common, especially during the summer and fall, and can result in waves as high as 4.5 m (15 ft).
Lake Baikal is rich in biodiversity. It hosts more than 1,000 species of plants and 2,500 species of animals based on current knowledge, but the actual figures for both groups are believed to be significantly higher.More than 80% of the animals are endemic.
The watershed of Lake Baikal has numerous floral species represented. The marsh thistle (Cirsium palustre) is found here at the eastern limit of its geographic range.
Submerged macrophytic vascular plants are mostly absent, except in some shallow bays along the shores of Lake Baikal. 20 m (65 ft); although Aegagrophila , Cladophora , and Draparnaldioides may occur deeper than 30 m (100 ft). Except for Ulothrix, there are endemic Baikal species in all these green algae genera. More than 400 diatom species, both benthic and planktonic, are found in the lake, and about half of these are endemic to Baikal; however, significant taxonomic uncertainties remain for this group.More than 85 species of submerged macrophytes have been recorded, including genera such as Ceratophyllum , Myriophyllum , Potamogeton , and Sparganium . The invasive species Elodea canadensis was introduced to the lake in the 1950s. Instead of vascular plants, aquatic flora is often dominated by several green algae species, notably Draparnaldioides , Tetraspora , and Ulothrix in water shallower than
The Baikal seal or nerpa (Pusa sibirica) is found throughout Lake Baikal.It is one of only three entirely freshwater seal populations in the world, the other two being subspecies of ringed seals.
A wide range of land mammals can be found in the habitats around the lake, such as Eurasian brown bear, Eurasian wolf, red fox, sable, stoat, elk, Siberian red deer, reindeer, Siberian roe deer, Siberian musk deer, wild boar, red squirrel, Siberian chipmunk, marmot, lemming, and Alpine hare.Until the Early Middle Ages, the wisent (European bison) was present near the lake, which was the easternmost part of its range.
There are 236 species of birds that inhabit Lake Baikal, 29 of which are waterfowl.
Fewer than 65 native fish species occur in the lake basin, but more than half of these are endemic. 20 cm (8 in) long. Of particular note are the two species of golomyanka (Comephorus baicalensis and C. dybowskii). These long-finned, translucent fish typically live in open water at depths of 100–500 m (330–1,640 ft), but occur both shallower and much deeper. Together with certain abyssocottid sculpins, they are the deepest living freshwater fish in the world, occurring to near the bottom of Lake Baikal. The golomyankas are the primary prey of the Baikal seal and represent the largest fish biomass in the lake. Beyond members of Cottoidea, there are few endemic fish species in the lake basin.The families Abyssocottidae (deep-water sculpins), Comephoridae (golomyankas or Baikal oilfish), and Cottocomephoridae (Baikal sculpins) are entirely restricted to the lake basin. All these are part of the Cottoidea and are typically less than
The most important local species for fisheries is the omul (Coregonus migratorius), an endemic whitefish.It is caught, smoked, and then sold widely in markets around the lake. Also, a second endemic whitefish inhabits the lake, C. baicalensis . The Baikal black grayling (Thymallus baicalensis), Baikal white grayling (T. brevipinnis), and Baikal sturgeon (Acipenser baerii baicalensis) are other important species with commercial value. They are also endemic to the Lake Baikal basin.
The lake hosts a rich endemic fauna of invertebrates. The copepod Epischura baikalensis is endemic to Lake Baikal and the dominating zooplankton species there, making up 80 to 90% of total biomass.It is estimated that the epischurans filter as much as a thousand cubic kilometers of water a year, or the lake’s entire volume every twenty-three years.
Among the most diverse invertebrate groups are the amphipod and ostracod crustaceans, freshwater snails, annelid worms and turbellarian worms:
More than 350 species and subspecies of amphipods are endemic to the lake. 7 cm (2.8 in).They are exceptionally diverse in ecology and appearance, ranging from the pelagic Macrohectopus to the relatively large deep-water Abyssogammarus and Garjajewia , the tiny herbivorous Micruropus , and the parasitic Pachyschesis (parasitic on other amphipods). The "gigantism" of some Baikal amphipods, which has been compared to that seen in Antarctic amphipods, has been linked to the high level of dissolved oxygen in the lake. Among the "giants" are several species of spiny Acanthogammarus and Brachyuropus (Acanthogammaridae) found at both shallow and deep depths. These conspicuous and common amphipods are essentially carnivores (will also take detritus), and can reach a body length up to
Similar to another ancient lake, Tanganyika, Baikal is a center for ostracod diversity. About 90% of the Lake Baikal ostracods are endemic,meaning that there are c. 200 endemic species. This makes it the second-most diverse group of crustacean in the lake, after the amphipods. The vast majority of the Baikal ostracods belong in the families Candonidae (more than 100 described species) and Cytherideidae (about 50 described species), but genetic studies indicate that the true diversity in at least the latter family has been heavily underestimated. The morphology of the Baikal ostracods is highly diverse.
As of 2006 [update] , almost 150 freshwater snails are known from Lake Baikal, including 117 endemic species from the subfamilies Baicaliinae (part of the Amnicolidae) and Benedictiinae (part of the Lithoglyphidae), and the families Planorbidae and Valvatidae. All endemics have been recorded between 20 and 30 m (66 and 98 ft), but the majority mainly live at shallower depths. About 30 freshwater snail species can be seen deeper than 100 m (330 ft), which represents the approximate limit of the sunlight zone, but only 10 are truly deepwater species. In general, Baikal snails are thin-shelled and small. Two of the most common species are Benedictia baicalensis and Megalovalvata baicalensis . Bivalve diversity is lower with more than 30 species; about half of these, all in the families Euglesidae, Pisidiidae, and Sphaeriidae, are endemic (the only other family in the lake is the Unionidae with a single nonendemic species). The endemic bivalves are mainly found in shallows, with few species from deep water.
With almost 200 described species, including more than 160 endemics, the center of diversity for aquatic freshwater oligochaetes is Lake Baikal.A smaller number of other freshwater annelids is known: 30 species of leeches (Hirudinea), and 4 polychaetes. Several hundred species of nematodes are known from the lake, but a large percentage of these are undescribed.
More than 140 endemic flatworm (Plathelminthes) species are in Lake Baikal, where they occur on a wide range of bottom types. 2 cm (1 in) long, but in deeper parts of the lake, the largest, Baikaloplana valida, can reach up to 30 cm (1 ft) when outstretched.Most of the flatworms are predatory, and some are relatively brightly marked. They are often very abundant in shallow waters, where they are typically less than
At least 18 species of sponges occur in the lake, 1 m (3.3 ft) or more. These three are also the most common sponges in the lake. While the Baikalospongia species typically have encrusting or carpet-like structures, L. baikalensis often has branching structures and in areas where common may form underwater "forests". Most sponges in the lake are typically green when alive because of symbiotic chlorophytes (zoochlorella), but can also be brownish or yellowish.including 14 species from the endemic family Lubomirskiidae (the remaining are from the nonendemic family Spongillidae). In the nearshore regions of Baikal, the largest benthic biomass is sponges. Lubomirskia baicalensis , Baikalospongia bacillifera , and B. intermedia are unusually large for freshwater sponges and can reach
The Baikal area, sometimes known as Baikalia, has a long history of human habitation. An early known tribe in the area was the Kurykans.
Located in the former northern territory of the Xiongnu confederation, Lake Baikal is one site of the Han–Xiongnu War, where the armies of the Han dynasty pursued and defeated the Xiongnu forces from the second century BC to the first century AD. They recorded that the lake was a "huge sea" (hanhai) and designated it the North Sea (Běihǎi) of the semimythical Four Seas.The Kurykans, a Siberian tribe who inhabited the area in the sixth century, gave it a name that translates to "much water". Later on, it was called "natural lake" (Baygal nuur) by the Buryats and "rich lake" (Bay göl) by the Yakuts. Little was known to Europeans about the lake until Russia expanded into the area in the 17th century. The first Russian explorer to reach Lake Baikal was Kurbat Ivanov in 1643.
Russian expansion into the Buryat area around Lake Baikalin 1628–58 was part of the Russian conquest of Siberia. It was done first by following the Angara River upstream from Yeniseysk (founded 1619) and later by moving south from the Lena River. Russians first heard of the Buryats in 1609 at Tomsk. According to folktales related a century after the fact, in 1623, Demid Pyanda, who may have been the first Russian to reach the Lena, crossed from the upper Lena to the Angara and arrived at Yeniseysk.
Vikhor Savin (1624) and Maksim Perfilyev (1626 and 1627–28) explored Tungus country on the lower Angara. To the west, Krasnoyarsk on the upper Yenisei was founded in 1627. A number of ill-documented expeditions explored eastward from Krasnoyarsk. In 1628, Pyotr Beketov first encountered a group of Buryats and collected yasak (tribute) from them at the future site of Bratsk. In 1629, Yakov Khripunov set off from Tomsk to find a rumored silver mine. His men soon began plundering both Russians and natives. They were joined by another band of rioters from Krasnoyarsk, but left the Buryat country when they ran short of food. This made it difficult for other Russians to enter the area. In 1631, Maksim Perfilyev built an ostrog at Bratsk. The pacification was moderately successful, but in 1634, Bratsk was destroyed and its garrison killed. In 1635, Bratsk was restored by a punitive expedition under Radukovskii. In 1638, it was besieged unsuccessfully.[ citation needed ]
In 1638, Perfilyev crossed from the Angara over the Ilim portage to the Lena River and went downstream as far as Olyokminsk. Returning, he sailed up the Vitim River into the area east of Lake Baikal (1640) where he heard reports of the Amur country. In 1641, Verkholensk was founded on the upper Lena. In 1643, Kurbat Ivanov went further up the Lena and became the first Russian to see Lake Baikal and Olkhon Island. Half his party under Skorokhodov remained on the lake, reached the Upper Angara at its northern tip, and wintered on the Barguzin River on the northeast side.[ citation needed ]
In 1644, Ivan Pokhabov went up the Angara to Baikal, becoming perhaps the first Russian to use this route, which is difficult because of the rapids. He crossed the lake and explored the lower Selenge River. About 1647, he repeated the trip, obtained guides, and visited a 'Tsetsen Khan' near Ulan Bator. In 1648, Ivan Galkin built an ostrog on the Barguzin River which became a center for eastward expansion. In 1652, Vasily Kolesnikov reported from Barguzin that one could reach the Amur country by following the Selenga, Uda, and Khilok Rivers to the future sites of Chita and Nerchinsk. In 1653, Pyotr Beketov took Kolesnikov's route to Lake Irgen west of Chita, and that winter his man Urasov founded Nerchinsk. Next spring, he tried to occupy Nerchensk, but was forced by his men to join Stephanov on the Amur. Nerchinsk was destroyed by the local Tungus, but restored in 1658.[ citation needed ]
The Trans-Siberian Railway was built between 1896 and 1902. Construction of the scenic railway around the southwestern end of Lake Baikal required 200 bridges and 33 tunnels. Until its completion, a train ferry transported railcars across the lake from Port Baikal to Mysovaya for a number of years. The lake became the site of the minor engagement between the Czechoslovak legion and the Red Army in 1918. At times during winter freezes, the lake could be crossed on foot, though at risk of frostbite and deadly hypothermia from the cold wind moving unobstructed across flat expanses of ice. In the winter of 1920, the Great Siberian Ice March occurred, when the retreating White Russian Army crossed frozen Lake Baikal. The wind on the exposed lake was so cold, many people died, freezing in place until spring thaw. Beginning in 1956, the impounding of the Irkutsk Dam on the Angara River raised the level of the lake by 1.4 m (4.6 ft).
As the railway was built, a large hydrogeographical expedition headed by F.K. Drizhenko produced the first detailed contour map of the lake bed.
Several organizations are carrying out natural research projects on Lake Baikal. Most of them are governmental or associated with governmental organizations. The Baikalian Research Centre is an independent research organization carrying out environmental educational and research projects at Lake Baikal.
In July 2008, Russia sent two small submersibles, Mir-1 and Mir-2, to descend 1,592 m (5,223 ft) to the bottom of Lake Baikal to conduct geological and biological tests on its unique ecosystem. Although originally reported as being successful, they did not set a world record for the deepest freshwater dive, reaching a depth of only 1,580 m (5,180 ft). That record is currently held by Anatoly Sagalevich, at 1,637 m (5,371 ft) (also in Lake Baikal aboard a Pisces submersible in 1990). Russian scientist and federal politician Artur Chilingarov, the leader of the mission, took part in the Mir dives as did Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Since 1993, neutrino research has been conducted at the Baikal Deep Underwater Neutrino Telescope (BDUNT). The Baikal Neutrino Telescope NT-200 is being deployed in Lake Baikal, 3.6 km (2.2 mi) from shore at a depth of 1.1 km (0.68 mi). It consists of 192 optical modules.
The lake, nicknamed "the Pearl of Siberia", drew investors from the tourist industry as energy revenues sparked an economic boom. 100 km (62 mi)-long long-distance trail as example for a sustainable development of the region. Baikal was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996. Rosatom plans to build a laboratory near Baikal, in conjunction with an international uranium plant and to invest $2.5 billion in the region and create 2,000 jobs in the city of Angarsk.Viktor Grigorov's Grand Baikal in Irkutsk is one of the investors, who planned to build three hotels, creating 570 jobs. In 2007, the Russian government declared the Baikal region a special economic zone. A popular resort in Listvyanka is home to the seven-story Hotel Mayak. At the northern part of the lake, Baikalplan (a German NGO) built together with Russians in 2009 the Frolikha Adventure Coastline Track, a
Lake Baikal is a popular destination among tourists from all over the world. According to the Russian Federal State Statistics Service, in 2013, 79,179 foreign tourists visited Irkutsk and Lake Baikal; in 2014, 146,937 visitors. The most popular places to stay by the lake are Listvyanka village, Olkhon Island, Kotelnikovsky cape, Baykalskiy Priboi, resort Khakusy and Turka village. The popularity of Lake Baikal is growing from year to year, but there is no developed infrastructure in the area. For the quality of service and comfort from the visitor's point of view, Lake Baikal still has a long way to go.
The ice road to Olkhon Island is the only legal ice road on Lake Baikal. The route is prepared by specialists every year and it opens when the ice conditions allow it. In 2015, the ice road to Olkhon was open from February 17 to March 23. The thickness of the ice on the road is about 60 cm (24 in), maximum capacity allowed – 10 t (9.8 long tons; 11 short tons); it is open to the public from 9 am to 6 pm. The road through the lake is 12 km (7.5 mi) long and it goes from the village Kurkut on the mainland, to Irkutskaya Guba on Olkhon Island.
Baikal has many different tourist activities to offer, depending on season. Generally Baikal has two top tourist seasons. The first season is ice season, which starts usually in mid-January and lasts till mid-April.During this season ice depth increases up to 140 centimeters, that allows quite safe vehicle driving on the ice cover (except heavy vehicles, such as tourist buses, that do not take this risk). This gives easy access to beautiful figures of ice, that are formed at rocky banks of Olkhon Island, especially Cape Hoboy, the Three Brothers rock, and caves to the North of Khuzhir. It also provides access to beautiful small islands like Ogoy Island, Zamogoy and many more, that offer beautiful scenery.
The ice itself is very picturesque because of transparency of one meter depth, having different patterns of crevasses and bubbles, performing astonishing sounds. That is why this season is popular for hiking, ice-walking, ice-skating, bicycle-riding. An ice route around Olkhon is around 200 km. Some tourists may spot a Baikal seal along the route. Local entrepreneurs offer overnight in Yurt on ice, that lets you hear all the sounds of ice at night. Also this season attracts numerous fans of Ice fishing. This activity is most popular on Buryatia side of Baikal (Ust-Barguzin). Non-fishermen may try fresh Baikal fresh fish on local markets in villages (Listvyanka, Ust-Barguzin).
The ice season ends in mid-April. Owing to increasing temperatures ice starts to melt and becomes shallow and fragile, especially in places with strong under-ice flows. Vehicles and people start to fall under ice. This leads to many casualties every year.
Second tourist season is summer, which lets tourists dive deeper into virgin Baikal nature. Hiking trails become open, many of them cross two mountain ranges: Baikal Range on the western side and Barguzin Range on the eastern side of Baikal. Small tourist vessels operate in the area, availing bird-watching, animal watching (especially Baikal seal), fishing and many more. Water in the lake stays extremely cold in most places (does not exceed 10 C most of the year), but in few gulfs like Chivirkuy it can be quite comfortable for swimming .
Despite many tourist opportunities on both sides of Baikal, island Olkhon's most-populated village Khuzhir stays main ecotourist destination. Baikal has always been popular in Russia and CIS-countries, but for the last few years Baikal faces a strong inflow of visitors from China and Europe. Despite poor accommodation, shortage of tourist information and a chaotic tourism market, this area attracts numerous tourists to its unique views and true wilderness beauty.
The Baykalsk Pulp and Paper Mill was constructed in 1966, directly on the shoreline of Lake Baikal. The plant bleached paper using chlorine and discharged waste directly into Lake Baikal. The decision to construct the plant on the Lake Baikal resulted in strong protests from Soviet scientists; according to them, the ultra-pure water of the lake was a significant resource and should have been used for innovative chemical production (for instance, the production of high-quality viscose for the aeronautics and space industries). The Soviet scientists felt that it was irrational to change Lake Baikal's water quality by beginning paper production on the shore. It was their position that it was also necessary to preserve endemic species of local biota, and to maintain the area around Lake Baikal as a recreation zone. However, the objections of the Soviet scientists faced opposition from the industrial lobby and only after decades of protest, the plant was closed in November 2008 due to unprofitability. In March 2009, the plant owner announced the paper mill would never reopen. However, on January 4, 2010, production was resumed. Later that year on January 13, 2010, Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin introduced changes in the legislation legalising the operation of the plant; this action brought about a wave of protests from ecologists and local residents. These changes were based on the determination President Putin made through a visual verification of Lake Baikal's condition from a miniature submarine, "I could see with my own eyes – and scientists can confirm – Baikal is in good condition and there is practically no pollution". Despite this, in September 2013, the mill underwent a final bankruptcy, with the last 800 workers slated to lose their jobs by December 28, 2013. On the day the plant was to close, December 28, 2013, the Russian government announced plans to build the Russian Nature Reserve's Expo Center in place of the closed paper mill.
Russian oil pipelines state company Transneft 800 m (2,600 ft) of the lake shore in a zone of substantial seismic activity. Environmental activists in Russia, Greenpeace, Baikal pipeline opposition and local citizens were strongly opposed to these plans, due to the possibility of an accidental oil spill that might cause significant damage to the environment. According to the Transneft's president, numerous meetings with citizens near the lake were held in towns along the route, especially in Irkutsk. Transneft agreed to alter its plans when Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered the company to consider an alternative route 40 kilometers (25 mi) to the north to avoid such ecological risks. Transneft has since decided to move the pipeline away from Lake Baikal, so that it will not pass through any federal or republic natural reserves. Work began on the pipeline two days after President Putin agreed to changing the route away from Lake Baikal.was planning to build a trunk pipeline that would have come within
In 2006, the Russian government announced plans to build the world's first international uranium enrichment center at an existing nuclear facility in Angarsk, a city on the river Angara some 95 km (59 mi) downstream from the lake's shores. Critics and environmentalists argued it would be a disaster for the region and are urging the government to reconsider.
After enrichment, only 10% of the uranium-derived radioactive material would be exported to international customers,leaving 90% near the Lake Baikal region for storage. Uranium tailings contain radioactive and toxic materials, which if improperly stored, are potentially dangerous to humans and can contaminate rivers and lakes.
An enrichment center was constructed in the 2010s.
According to The Moscow Times and Vice , an increasing number of an invasive species of algae thrives in the lake from hundreds of tons of liquid waste, including fuel and excrement, regularly disposed into the lake by tourist sites, and up to 25,000 tons of liquid waste are disposed of every year by local ships.
The first European to reach the lake is said to have been Kurbat Ivanov in 1643.
In the past, the Baikal was referred to by many Russians as the "Baikal Sea" (Russian : Море Байкал, More Baikal), rather than merely "Lake Baikal" (Russian : Озеро Байкал, Ozero Baikal). This usage is attested already in the Life of Protopope Avvakum (1621–1682), and on the late-17th-century maps by Semyon Remezov. It is also attested in the famous song, now passed into the tradition, that opens with the words Славное море, священный Байкал (Glorious sea, [the] sacred Bajkal). To this day, the strait between the western shore of the Lake and the Olkhon Island is called Maloye More (Малое Море), i.e. "the Little Sea".
Lake Baikal is nicknamed "Older sister of Sister Lakes (Lake Khövsgöl and Lake Baikal)".
According to 19th-century traveler T. W. Atkinson, locals in the Lake Baikal Region had the tradition that Christ visited the area:
The people have a tradition in connection with this region which they implicitly believe. They say "that Christ visited this part of Asia and ascended this summit, whence he looked down on all the region around. After blessing the country to the northward, he turned towards the south, and looking across the Baikal, he waved his hand, exclaiming 'Beyond this there is nothing.'" Thus they account for the sterility of Daouria, where it is said "no corn will grow."
Lake Baikal has been celebrated in several Russian folk songs. Two of these songs are well known in Russia and its neighboring countries, such as Japan.
The latter song was a secondary theme song for the Soviet Union's second color film, Ballad of Siberia (1947; in Russian : Сказание о земле Сибирской).
The Angara River is a 1,779-kilometer-long (1,105 mi) river in Siberia, which traces a course through Russia's Irkutsk Oblast and Krasnoyarsk Krai. It is the river that drains Lake Baikal and is the headwater tributary of the Yenisei River. It was formerly known as the Lower or Nizhnyaya Angara. Below its junction with the Ilim, it was formerly known as the Upper Tunguska and, with the names reversed, as the Lower Tunguska.
Irkutsk is the administrative center of Irkutsk Oblast, Russia, and one of the largest cities in Siberia.
The Buryats, numbering approximately 500,000, are the largest indigenous group in Siberia, mainly concentrated in their homeland, the Buryat Republic, a federal subject of Russia. They are the major northern subgroup of the Mongols.
The Republic of Buryatia is a federal subject of Russia, located in Siberia in Asia. Formerly part of the Siberian Federal District, it is now part of the Russian Far East as of November 2018 in accordance with a decree issued by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Its capital is the city of Ulan-Ude. Its area is 351,300 square kilometers (135,600 sq mi) with a population of 972,021.
Olkhon is the fourth-largest lake-bound island in the world. It is by far the largest island in Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia, with an area of 730 km2 (280 sq mi). Structurally, it acts as the southwestern margin of Academician Ridge. The island measures 71.5 km (44.4 mi) in length and 20.8 km (12.9 mi) in width.
Barguzin is a river in Buryatia, Russia, 480 km (300 mi) long, flowing into the Barguzin Bay of Lake Baikal, the largest and deepest bay of Baikal. Barguzin is the third inflow of Baikal, after the Selenga and Upper Angara Rivers. Its watershed area is 21,100 km2 (8,100 sq mi). It is navigable for 204 km (127 mi) upwards from its estuary. Its main tributaries are the Gagra, Argada, Ina, and Ulyun Rivers. In 1648, Ivan Galkin founded an ostrog on the Barguzin.
Comephorus, known as the golomyankas or Baikal oilfish, are a genus comprising two species of peculiar, sculpin fishes endemic to Lake Baikal in Russia. Comephorus is the only genus in the family Comephoridae. Golomyankas are pelagic fishes which make the main food source of the Baikal seal.
Kurbat Afanasyevich Ivanov (Russian: Курбат Афанасьевич Иванов, was among the greatest Cossack explorers of Siberia. He was the first Russian to discover Lake Baikal, and to create the first map of the Russian Far East. He also is credited with creation of the early map of Chukotka and Bering Strait, which was the first to show the yet undiscovered Wrangel Island, both Diomede Islands and Alaska.
The Eastern-Siberian Inland Navigation Company (ESINC) is a company, which carries out goods and passengers by inland waterways of Irkutsk Oblast and the Buryatia Republic.
Lubomirskia baicalensis is a freshwater demosponge that is found on hard bottoms at depths between 1 and 120 m (3–394 ft) in Lake Baikal, Russia. It is commonly called Lake Baikal sponge and it is the most abundant sponge in the lake, but all 14 species in the family Lubomirskiidae are Baikal endemics.
Kessler's sculpin is a species of Baikal sculpin, a freshwater fish native to Russia and Mongolia where it occurs in Lake Baikal and surrounding lakes as well as the Selenga, Angara and Bain Gol rivers. It is the only member of its genus. In Lake Baikal it occurs on sandy, rocky-sandy or sandy-muddy bottoms, ranging from relatively shallow water to depths of 70 m (230 ft). In rivers they mainly occur in slow-flowing channels and floodplains.
Procottus jeittelesii, the red sculpin or red Baikal sculpin, is a species of deepwater sculpin that is endemic to Lake Baikal in Russia. It is a freshwater fish that dwells under stones or in holes in the mud at a depth range of 0 to 800 m. It is often found at around 100 m (330 ft), and is most abundant during the autumn and winter. From the late winter to the spring it breeds at depths of 5 to 30 m. It can reach a maximum length of 18 cm (7.1 in), but typically is 10–12 cm (3.9–4.7 in). It has a red spotted or banded pattern on a light background. The red sculpin resembles two of its close relatives, the smaller P. gurwici and the larger P. major.
Megalovalvata baicalensis is a species of freshwater snail with an operculum, an aquatic gastropod mollusk in the family Valvatidae, the valve snails.
Lubomirskiidae is a family of freshwater sponges from Lake Baikal in Russia.
The bighead sculpin is a species of sculpin fish that is endemic to the Lake Baikal watershed in Siberia, Russia. It typically lives on rocky bottoms, often in places with sponges, at depths of 5 to 70 m (16–230 ft), but can occur as deep as 120 m (390 ft). Its colour varies from grayish to brownish or greenish depending on the bottom type. It can reach up to 22 cm (8.7 in) in length, but most are 13–16 cm (5.1–6.3 in). It feeds on a wide range of smaller animals such as young fish, insect larvae, amphipods, molluscs and oligochaetes. Breeding is in the spring where the female lays 618 to 1622 eggs, which are guarded by the male.
Sakhyurta is a village in the Olkhonsky District of Irkutsk region of Russia, a part of the Shara-Togotskiy municipal unit. Located on the western shore of Lake Baikal, in 46 km northeast from the district center — village Elantsy and in 12 km southeast from the municipal unit centre — village Shara-Togot. Population: 224 (2010 Census);
Pribaikalsky National Park covers the southwest coast of Lake Baikal in southeastern Siberia. The coastal strip includes some mountain ridges to the west as well as offshore islands such as Olkhon Island to the east. It is about 50 km southeast of the city of Irkutsk, Irkutsk Oblast. The park is managed with three other nature reserves, and is a major component of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Lake Baikal". The Angara River, which is the outflow of Lake Baikal west into the Yenisei River basin, runs through the park. The park has very high levels of biodiversity and endemic species.
Zaybaybalsky National Park covers the middle section of the eastern shore of Lake Baikal, the west slope of the Barguzin mountains to the east, the Ushkany Islands, and the only large peninsula on the lake Svyatoy Nos. Of the 2,690 km2 (1,040 sq mi) of the park, 38.8 km2 are protected water areas of the lake itself.
The Baikal yellowfin, also known as the yellow-finned sculpin or yellow-wing sculpin, is a species of cottoid fish that is endemic to Lake Baikal and its tributaries in Siberia, Russia. It is most common in the southern part of the lake and lives from near the shore to a depth of 300 m (980 ft).