The lake is located in Eastern Siberia, between Irkutsk Oblast to the northwest and Buryatia to the southeast. It is the planet’s deepest (1637m) and oldest lake, as well as its largest body of freshwater, containing over one fifth of the world’s supply. The origins of the name are unknown, but several hypotheses are these : deep water (Yakut), rich lake (Turkic), nature (Mongolian), northern sea (Chinese).
The lake’s geological formation started around 20-25 million years ago, making it one of the oldest lakes in geological history and even nowadays its rift is continuing to widen 2cm a year. In 1997 Lake Baikal became a part of UNESCO Heritage.
Baikal mountains surrounding the valley and the lake consist of a few ranges. In the west there are the Baikal Mountains, in the east the Zabaikalskie Mountains. More than 300 streams and rivers feed into Lake Baikal, but the Angara River is the only outlet.
The Selenga River is the largest source of water coming into Lake Baikal. Flowing north from Mongolia, it contributes nearly 50 percent of the lake’s water. Like Lake Baikal, the Selenga Delta is internationally recognized for its biodiversity and importance, according to the Ramsar Convention.
Lake Baikal is the only very deep lake to have oxygenated water at its lowest depths, like the ocean, according to a 2009 article in BioScience. Additionally, the earth under Lake Baikal is heated. The cause of the heat is unknown.
According to the UNESCO World Heritage Commission, Lake Baikal is sometimes called the “Galapagos of Russia” because of its exceptional biodiversity and importance to evolutionary science. The age, isolation and deep oxygenated water of Lake Baikal have resulted in one of the world’s richest freshwater ecosystems.
About 80 percent of the more than 3,700 species found at Lake Baikal are endemic, meaning they are found nowhere else on Earth. Probably the most famous of these species is the nerpa, the world’s only exclusively freshwater seal. Scientists are unsure how the nerpa came to Lake Baikal and evolved, but they suspect the seals might have swum down a prehistoric river from the Arctic, according to LakeBaikal.org. Other endemic species include the oily, scaleless golomyanka fish and the omul, a white fish that is one of Lake Baikal’s most famous dishes.
The water mass is a key factor to the climate of the lake’s banks. Winters are often milder, summers are chillier. The area is distinctive for sunshine longevity which is record-high for the whole of Russia. The water in summer is cold, normally +8..+9C and can reach +15C in bays. It’s so pellucid that one can see the bottom 40m down.
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