Bol'shoe Ozero (The Great Lake)

June 21, 2010

Torah Kachur

Science in Seconds On Location:  Torah on Olkhon Island, Siberia, Russia.


North America is proud of our Great Lakes - consisting of Lake Superior, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and that one everyone forgets, Huron.  But, these hardly deserve the title of "great".  Russia is home to the true great lakes - the Caspian Sea and the romantic, delightful, mysterious Lake Baikal.

         Torah Kachur Science in Seconds Lake Baikal Map

Lake Baikal stretches across South Eastern Siberia in a large crescent that looks just like a really big lake on a map.  The actual surface area isn't as big as the "Great" lakes which is why us North Americans can claim that title.  However, Baikal is over 1.6 kilometers deep and holds 20% of the Earth's fresh water, not to mention the thousands of unique creatures that have yet to be discovered. 


Like anything this size, man is attempting to claim it, or tame it, whatever comes first.  The Russians have successfully reached the bottom of the lake with a manned mini-submarine in 2008 causing oil and gas companies to line up for geological testing.  Lake Baikal may have been claimed, but it cannot be tamed.  It continues to expand up to 2cm a year and shows no sign of stopping.  The lake sits in the Lake Baikal basin where the Amur and Eurasian tectonic plates overlap.  As the Amur plate slowly moves closer to Japan, the lake opens up.

                   Torah Kachur science in Seconds Lake Baikal Russia Siberia Olkhon Island

If deepest and largest weren't enough to convince you of the incredible vastness of Lake Baikal, how about oldest?  Lake Baikal is up to 30 million years old, its continued expansion prevents it from being filled with sediment.  In a lake this old, evolution has had a unique chance to work.  The Baikal ecosystem consists of a vast assortment of flora and fauna including adorable freshwater seals and the iconic omul fish.  Ecologists estimate that up to two thirds of the life in Lake Baikal is found nowhere else on Earth.  No word on the Ogopogo. 


All of these claims to fame has allowed it to be declared a UNESCO Wold Heritage Site and for good reason.  It is mesmerizing.  Although this hasn't stopped a pulp and paper mill from opening up, we can only do so much.



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