Lake Baikal is the world's oldest lake, at 25 million years (possibly older), and deepest, averaging 744.4 m (2,442 ft). Located in the south of the Russian region of Siberia, between Irkutsk Oblast to the northwest and the Buryat Republic to the southeast, it is the most voluminous freshwater lake in the world, containing roughly 20% of the world's unfrozen surface fresh water.
At 1,642 m (5,387 ft), Lake Baikal is the deepest and among the clearest of all lakes in the world. Similar to Lake Tanganyika, Lake Baikal was formed as an ancient rift valley, having the typical long crescent shape with a surface area of 31,722 km2 (12,248 sq mi). Baikal is home to more than 1,700 species of plants and animals, two thirds of which can be found nowhere else in the world and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
It is also home to Buryat tribes who reside on the eastern side of Lake Baikal, rearing goats, camels, cattle and sheep, where the regional average temperatures vary from a minimum of −19 °C (−2 °F) in winter to maximum of 14 °C (57 °F) in summer. Lake Baikal is nicknamed "Older sister of Sister Lakes (Lake Khövsgöl and Lake Baikal)".
Lake Baikal was known as the "North Sea" in historical Chinese texts. It was situated in the then Xiongnu territory that stretched from the empire of the Han Dynasty in the south, to the Siberian taiga north of the lake, and saw military excursions led by the army of the Han Dynasty engaging the Xiongnu during the Han-Hun Wars. Little was known to Europeans about the lake until Russia expanded into the area in the 17th century.
Wildlife And Vegetation
Lake Baikal is rich in biodiversity. It hosts 1,085 species of plants and 1,550 species and varieties of animals. More than 80% of the animals are endemic. Epischura baikalensis is endemic to Lake Baikal and the dominating zooplankton species there, making up 80 to 90 percent of total biomass.
The Baikal Seal or nerpa (Pusa sibirica) is found throughout Lake Baikal. It is one of only three entirely freshwater seal populations in the world, the other two being subspecies of Ringed Seal. Perhaps the most important local species is the omul (Coregonus autumnalis migratorius), a smallish endemic salmonid. It is caught, smoked and then sold widely in markets around the lake.
Russian Exploration And Conquest
Russian expansion into the Buryat area around Lake Baikal in 1628–1658 was part of the Russian conquest of Siberia. It was done first by following the Angara River upstream from Yeniseysk (founded 1619) and later by moving south from the Lena River. Russians first heard of the Buryats in 1609 at Tomsk. According to folktales related a century after the fact, in 1623, Demid Pyanda, who may have been the first Russian to reach the Lena, crossed from the upper Lena to the Angara and arrived at Yeniseysk.
Baikal Deep Underwater Neutrino Telescope
Since 1993, neutrino research has been conducted at the Baikal Deep Underwater Neutrino Telescope (BDUNT). The Baikal Neutrino Telescope NT-200 is being deployed in Lake Baikal, 3.6 km (2.2 mi) from shore at a depth of 1.1 km (0.68 mi). It consists of 192 optical modules (OMs).
The lake, called "the Pearl of Siberia", drew investors from the tourist industry as energy revenues sparked an economic boom. Viktor Grigorov's Grand Baikal in Irkutsk is one of the investors, who planned to build three hotels creating 570 jobs. In 2007, the Russian government declared the Baikal region a special economic zone. The popular resort of Listvyanka is home to the seven-story Hotel Mayak.
At the northern part of the lake Baikalplan (a German NGO) built together with Russians in 2009 the Frolikha Adventure Coastline Track a 100 km long Long-distance trail as example for a sustainable development of the region. Baikal was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996. Rosatom plans to build a laboratory in Baikal, in conjunction with an international uranium plant and to invest $2.5 billion in the region and create 2,000 jobs in the city of Angarsk.