Lake Baikal is the most famous lake in Russia. So beautiful is Baikal that it is known as the Pearl of Siberia and most Russians are justifiably proud of their lake. This article contains a number of Lake Baikal facts, so you can see just why Russians are so proud.
Lake Baikal is the World’s Deepest Lake
The question how deep is Lake Baikal has two answers. At its deepest point, Baikal is 1,642 meters deep. It’s average depth is 744.4 meters. By both measurements, it is the deepest lake in the world today.
Largest Lake in World
By volume, Lake Baikal is the largest lake in the world (if you discount the Caspian Sea, which is the largest landlocked body of water in the world). It has a volume of 23,615.39 km3.
By surface area, Baikal is the 5th largest lake in the world – it’s depth is the reason why it has a larger volume than other shallower lakes, such as Lake Michigan-Huron. To put it into perspective, Lake Baikal contains about one fifth (20%) of the world’s fresh drinking water.
By both measurements, Lake Baikal is the largest lake in Asia.
World’s Oldest Lake
Lake Baikal is also the oldest lake in the world. It was formed in a rift valley over 25 million years ago. Its formation in a rift valley is the main reason for its massive depth.
Lake Baikal’s Diversity
Because it has been so isolated, more than 80% of the animals that can be found in the lake are unique to Baikal. In particular, Baikal is famous for its Baikal Seal, known as the Nerpa, which is one of only three breeds of freshwater seal, for Omul, a fish which tastes wonderful smoked and which is sold fresh at markets near the lake shore, and for Golymanka, a translucent fish that lives at depths of between 200 and 500 metres.
In 1895, British company VG Armstrong & Co were contracted to build an icebreaker to ferry railway carriages across Lake Baikal.
The first icebreaker – Angara – was built in sections and shipped to across Russia by train before being assembled at Baikal. So impressive was the Angara that a second icebreaker – the Baikal – was also purchased to double capacity.
The Angara was in active use until 1962. It still exists today, and can be viewed by tourists. It is located in Irkutsk, next to the city’s hydroelectric dam.
First Scientific Expedition to Lake Baikal
The first ever scientific expedition to Lake Baikal took place between 1723 and 1724. It was sponsored by Peter the Great, and led by German scientist Daniel Gottlieb Messerschmidt. Some of the first maps of Baikal were created by members of this expedition.
What does Baikal mean?
In Buryat, Lake Baikal is called Baygal Nuur, which is translated as “nature lake”. There are other theories of the origin of the name Baikal, however, including that Baikal is derived from a language called Kurykan, and means “much water” or “wealth of water”.