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 it has also attracted scientists and conspiracy theorists alike.
In this article titled 45 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…
Lake Baikal Facts: 1-5
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 the 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 the 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 the 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 the 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.
Lake Baikal Facts: 6-10
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 evidence 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 the Baikal rift.
Lake Baikal Facts: 11-15
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 a 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 the 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.
Lake Baikal Facts: 16-20
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 the 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 the 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 deposits 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.
Lake Baikal Facts: 21-25
21. On a very good and clear day, you can actually see up to 40 meters below the water surface of Lake Baikal.
22. This lake has islands. Not just one or two. There are 27 islands in total on Lake Baikal and most of these islands are uninhabited by humans.
23. The unique water of the lake and its amazing geography helps to create microclimates around the shores of the lakes.
24. The coastline of the lake stretches to 1,300 miles or 2,100 kilometers. On the shore one can find sponges which are currently dying and turning into black slime. The reason is yet unknown.
25. The lake holds 20% of total freshwater present on Earth. Exactly how much water is that? If all people on this planet start using 500 liters of water each, every day, the total water will last for 40 years!
Lake Baikal Facts: 26-30
26. Though an unrealistic way of calculation, if the depth of a lake was to be measured from the top of the mountains surrounding it to its rock hard bottom, Lake Baikal would have a depth of 12,977 meters. Just to give you a perspective, Mount Everest (the highest peak of Himalayan Ranges) is at a height of 8,848 meters and the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench has a depth of 11,022 meters.
27. Every 383 years, the total water of the lake is completely renewed. This means that the old water is totally flushed out and new water takes the place. However, this replacement is a gradual process and takes over the period of 383 years.
28. The water from the lake drains only and only into Angara River. This is the only outlet for the lake. However, there are over 544 water sources that feed the lake. Many of these sources (streams and rivers) are seasonal.
29. Scientists say that when the lake and Angara River were born at that location, they were just 1 kilometer wide. Today the lake has a whopping 79 kilometers of width.
30. Though it is a lake, Lake Baikal is known for experiencing some nasty storms which can lead to massive waves that grow as high as 4 to 5 meters.
Lake Baikal Facts: 31-35
31. The total area covered by Lake Baikal is equal to the total area over which the country Belgium stands!
32. There are a total of 1455 species of animals that natively live in Lake Baikal. Interestingly, these species can be found only and only in this lake. If the lake goes extinct, these animals will also go extinct. The number of animals endemic to the lake, however, keep on increasing every time a new scientific search is conducted.
33. There are 27 unique fish species that live only in the lake. One example is gourmet Baikal cisco. So, if you wish to eat fish that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, Lake Baikal will be a good place to start.
34. During the winters, the water surface of the lake freezes. At many places the ice is awfully transparent. This happens because strong winds manage to blow away the snow from above. Also because the mineralization of water in Lake Baikal is very low, the ice becomes amazingly transparent.
35. Here is one of the many interesting Lake Baikal facts – while walking on the ice one may get the feeling that he or she will simply fall through. However, the clarity of the ice is very deceiving. The ice is actually very thick. It is so thick that big trucks can drive over. During winters, people even laid rails on the ice!
Lake Baikal Facts: 36-40
36. During the winter months when the sky is free of clouds and the water surface of the lake is totally frozen, the water beneath still supports life and it blooms! The Baikal algae that can be found underneath the ice surface develops actively.
37. Also, the frozen ice surface of the lake gets cracks which can be as long as 30 kilometers and wide as 3 meters. These cracks are important because they let in oxygen which allows the fish and other life forms to survive underneath the water surface.
38. On the shores of Lake Baikal, one can find several grottoes scattered in various places. During the winter months, these grottos are adorned by icicles that are formed by freezing of dripping water.
39. A special type of ice is formed on Lake Baikal during the chilling winter months. These ice are known as “whispers” and they look like needles – up to 1 to 2 centimeters in height – floating on water.
40. The lake is very different from other freshwater lakes in several aspects. However, the most important difference is the presence of life even in the bottommost layer (known as hypolimnion) of the lake.
Lake Baikal Facts: 41-45
41. One of the most interesting Lake Baikal facts is that the lake hosts the only freshwater seal in this world. This seal is known as Nerpa.
42. The lake is very oxygen-rich. This probably happens because the lake sits on top of an area formed by three tectonic plates. These tectonic plates intersect each other and end up creating minor earthquakes every few hours.
43. Scientists believe that because of these numerous earthquakes, the thermal vents at the bottom of the lake manage to circulate water even at the very bottom of the lake and keep it rich in oxygen. This explains why life can be found at the very bottom of the lake.
44. The unique biosphere of the lake manages to make the lake home to some extraordinary life forms. For instance, one can find the world’s largest flatworm on this planet in this lake. This flatworm grows up to a length of 16 inches and hunts and eats fish!
45. The lake hosts a massive population of Baikal Epishura – a small crayfish which is known for eating particulates and algae that are known for lowering visibility in water. Because of Baikal Epishura, the lake’s water is incredibly clear. Also, there are several water plants that significantly contribute to the water filtration process, keeping the lake extremely clear.