Facts about Lake Baikal
Lake Baikal is one of the most wonderful places in the world. It is often called the Pearl of Siberia by locals for its beauty, unique natural features, flora and fauna. Its transparent depth is keeping many secrets unsolved. The world’s deepest lake is unique in many aspects. Baikal is situated in the center of Asian continent 455.5 meters (1,500 ft) above sea level. Its northern and southern ends lie approximately between the latitudes of such cities as London and Edinburg in the UK. The lake is fed by 336 rivers. Most of the streams flowing into the lake are only short rivulets. The major stream flowing into the lake is the Selenga River which flows from Mongolia to form a large delta in the south-eastern portion of the lake. The Selenga’s flow provides over a half of the total inflow. Other large tributaries are the Barguzin River on the eastern shore and the Upper Angara River at the northern end. And there is only one river which flows out. That is the Angara River.
Baikal major depth is 1,637 meters which is almost exactly 1 mile. It is located next to Olkhon Island in the middle depression of the lake. The depth of Baikal can only be compared with Lake Tanganyka in Africa, the lake with maximum depth of 1,470 meters (0.9 mile). Lake Superior in North America is 400 m (0.25 mi) deep and Lake Michigan is only 300 m (0.18 mi).
The dimensions the surface are as follows: the length is 636 km (395 miles), the width varies from 30 to 80 km (19 to 50 mi). Baikal has 30 different islands. The largest one is Olkhon Island that lies along the midsection of the western shore. Its size is 730 sq km (280 sq mi). It separates the portion of the surface which is called the Small Sea strait.
Lake Baikal has the greatest depth and the largest volume of any fresh-water lake in the world. With such area it ranks the 8-th in the world (31,500 sq. km or 12,167 sq. mi), its depth contains 23,000 cubic km (5,520 cubic miles) of water, which amounts for 22% of the world’s fresh water supplies and 80% of Russia’s fresh and drinking water. Baikal has as much water as all five of the Great Lakes combined. This volume is exceeded only by the Caspian Sea which is considered to be the lake, but the Caspian is salty and therefore Baikal has the greatest volume of fresh water in the world.
The waters here are unusually clear and transparent. The most amazing fact is that a white disk of 30 centimeters (1 foot) in diameter can be seen at depth of 43 meters (140 ft). Up to the very depth the lake’s water is well saturated with oxygen and contains very few mineral salts. There is a good deal of problems facing the world but as UNESCO states the most serious ones at present are wars, lack of food and clear drinking water, and this fact largely determines the importance of Baikal.
There are more than 3,500 species of animals and plants living here. The list is growing continuously while new species are being discovered during numerous researches. Most of these species (about 80%) are endemics which mean that is they can be found only in this particular area.
Lake Baikal is only 65 km (40 miles) south-east of Irkutsk, so it can be visited during one day trip.