LAKE BAIKAL- Largest and Deepest Lake In The World

 

Baikal is the deepest, oldest and voluminous of all lakes, a superstar of superlatives in hydrology, geology, ecology and history.

 

Lake Baikal, Russian Ozero Baykal, also spelled Ozero Bajkal, lake located in the southern part of eastern Siberia within the republic of Buryatia and Irkutsk oblast (province) of Russia. It is the oldest existing freshwater lake on Earth (20 million–25 million years old), as well as the deepest continental body of water, having a maximum depth of 5,315 feet (1,620 metres). Its area is some 12,200 square miles (31,500 square km), with a length of 395 miles (636 km) and an average width of 30 miles (48 km). It is also the world’s largest freshwater lake by volume, containing about one-fifth of the fresh water on Earth’s surface, some 5,500 cubic miles (23,000 cubic km). Into Lake Baikal flow more than 330 rivers and streams, the largest of which include the Selenga, Barguzin, Upper (Verkhnyaya) Angara, Chikoy, and Uda.

 

Plant and animal life in the lake is rich and various. There are between 1,500 and 1,800 animal species at different depths, and hundreds of plant species live on or near the surface. The majority of the species are endemic to Baikal. There are some 50 species of fish, belonging to seven families; the most numerous of these are the 25 species of gobies. The omul salmon is heavily fished; also important are the grayling , lake whitefish, and sturgeon. Unique to the lake is a fish called the golomyanka, of the family Comephoridae, which gives birth to live young. The one mammal species is the Baikal seal, or nerpa (Phoca sibirica). There are more than 320 bird species in the Baikal area.

Lake Baikal is the largest fresh water lake by volume in the world, containing 22–23% of the world’s fresh surface water. With 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.

 

Like Lake Tanganyika, Lake Baikal was formed as an ancient rift valley. and has 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 are endemic to the region. It is also home to Buryat tribes, residing on the eastern side of the lake, 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).

 

Baikal lies in a deep structural hollow surrounded by mountains, some of which rise more than 6,600 feet (2,000 metres) above the lake’s surface. The sedimentary strata on the floor of the lake may be as much as 20,000 feet (6,100 metres) thick. Breaks in Earth’s crust produce hot mineral springs in the area. There are occasional severe earthquakes; in 1862 a quake inundated about 77 square miles (200 square km) in the northern Selenga delta, creating a new bay in Baikal known as Proval Bay.

 

Lake Baikal is just five and a half flight hours from Moscow. You can fly to Irkutsk or even opt for the Trans-Siberian Railway to Irkutsk. There is also a journey that starts in Beijing and travels through Mongolian, where you can actually catch a slice of the Siberian plains and stop of at various points of interest.

 

Lake Baikal is the largest freshwater lake in the world (by volume) and the world’s deepest lake. Somewhat crescent shaped, it is in the southern Siberia area of Russia. In 1996 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“Lake Baikal is the oldest lake in the world. It is home to approximately 1,700 to 1,800 endemic plant and animal species,” said Jennifer Castner of Pacific Environment’s Russia program. Additionally, it holds 20 percent of the world’s fresh water, due to the lake’s depth. 

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