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20 Interesting Lake Baikal Facts – Part I

If you like mysterious, magical, awe-inspiring, serene and overwhelming natural beauty, you should think of Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia. Not only does it display all the aforementioned traits but has also attracted scientists and conspiracy theorists alike. In this article titled 20 interesting Lake Baikal facts, we will explore some of the most interesting information about this extraordinary lake that teams with an amazing array of flora and fauna. So, let us begin…

Interesting Lake Baikal Lake Facts: 1-10

1. Lake Baikal is located in Southern Siberia. Its exact location is between the Buryat Republic on the southeast and Irkutsk Oblast on the northwest.

2. This lake is world’s largest (in terms of volume) freshwater lake. However, this is counted for unfrozen fresh water on the surface. Lake Baikal holds 20% of world’s entire unfrozen surface fresh water.

3. This lake is also known to be the deepest lake in the world with the maximum depth reaching 5,387 feet or 1,642 meters.

4. Not just that, it is also world’s clearest freshwater lake and the oldest freshwater lake. Its age is approximately 25 million years.

5. The lake was formed in an ancient rift valley and today stands at 395 miles or 636 kilometers in length. It is 49 miles or 79 kilometers in width at the widest point. This makes Baikal the largest lake in whole of Asia in terms of surface area. The lake’s total surface area stands at 12,248 square miles or 31,722 square kilometers.

6. The lake is 1,642 meters deep. Out of this 1,186.5 meters lies below sea level. On top of that, there is a sediment layer that runs another 4.3 miles or 7 kilometers in depth. So basically, the lake bed is actually at a depth of 8 to 11 kilometers or 5.0 to 6.8 miles below the surface of the earth, making the lake the deepest continental rift to exist on earth.

7. Interestingly, the lake is widening every year. The rift being geologically active and young actually widens by about 0.79 inches or 2 centimeters in a year.

8. Lake Baikal has three different basins with three different average depths. The North basin has an average depth of 3,000 feet or 900 meters. The South basin has an average depth of 4,600 feet or 1,400 meters. The Central basin has an average depth of 5,200 feet or 1,600 meters.

9. It is also the only confined freshwater lake in this world which has direct as well as indirect evidences for gas hydrates.

10. There are no active volcanoes in Lake Baikal as of now. The active ones can be found in the valley basin known as the Tunkinskaya Valley. This basin is basically a continuation of Baikal rift.

Interesting Lake Baikal Lake Facts: 11-20

11. Photographs of the lake captured from space showed dark circles on the frozen ice surface of the lake (during winter months). These rings that have diameter of 5 kilometers to 7 kilometers were found at the exact same location however, they did not appear every year.

12. Scientists say that these rings are a result of gas or mud volcanoes at the bottom of the lake. When these volcanoes erupt, warm gas rushes towards the surface. During this movement, underwater cyclones are formed. These cyclones are warmer compared to water in the surrounding and when the gas reaches to the surface ice, these dark circles are formed.

13. This theory of underwater cyclones caused by gas volcanoes has some credibility because the ice inside the circles have more water saturation and are thinner than ice in the surrounding areas. On top of that, scientists have identified micro cracks on ice inside the circle, indicating that gas managed to escape through those cracks.

14. Local residents and fishermen as well as some members of scientific community have often reported glowing orbs above the lake. While locals believe that they are nothing but spirits and that it is not safe to go nearby, the scientific community believes that these orbs may be caused by spontaneous ignition of methane released from the lake. However, no direct evidence of methane has been found so far.

15. There have been several instances of mass fish mortality in the lake. The victims have been sockeye salmon, whitefish and cisco. Many blamed this on industrial pollution but areas where sockeye salmon died, there were no industries. This is the reason why scientists think of natural gas emission as the cause of these mass mortalities.

16. Mir – deep manned submersibles explored the lake and found gas hydrates. Gas hydrates are nothing but solid compounds made of water and gas. Heating up 1 cubic meter of gas hydrate can generate 160 to 180 cubic meters of natural gas. This is the reason why the scientific community considers gas hydrates as future fuel resources.

17. Mir submersibles detected large amounts of gas hydrates in various places of the lake and that too at shallow depths. This is very unusual for freshwater lakes.

18. Scientists hypothesize that Lake Baikal is a gradually emerging ocean. This hypothesis comes from the fact that the lake is located at titanic Siberian platform’s edge and since the tectonic plates are moving, there is a gradual expansion in the boundaries of the lake. Eventually in far future, the lake can end up as an ocean.

19. As mentioned earlier, the lake is ancient. This is an important fact about Lake Baikal because usually it has been found that freshwater lakes have very quick silt deposit and some end up disappearing within a matter of decades. This lake in particular has survived 25 million years but some claim it to be as old as 35 million years.

20. The lake is surrounded by mountains which are pretty unusual. These mountains are in constant motion. Among these mountains, the North-Muya ridge experiences the maximum movement of 2.7+ centimeters in a single year.

There is no point thinking that these 20 Lake Baikal facts are all we have to offer. There are more interesting Lake Baikal facts that we will cover in other articles. Stay tuned for big surprises!

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4