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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lake Baikal

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Lake Baikal is the world's oldest and deepest lake at 30 million years old and with an average depth of 744.4 metres, located in the south of the Russian region of Siberia, between Irkutsk Oblast to the northwest and the Buryat Republic to the south east, it is the most voluminous freshwater lake in the world, containing roughly 20% of the world's unfrozen surface fresh water.

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Lake Baikal

At 1,642 metres (5,387 ft), Lake Baikal is the deepest and among the clearest of all lakes in the world. Similarly 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, less than that of Lake Superior or Lake Victoria. 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 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. Little was known to Europeans about the lake until Russia expanded into the area in the 17th century. The first Russian explorer to reach Lake Baikal was Kurbat Ivanov in 1643.

The Trans-Siberian railway was built between 1896 and 1902. The scenic railway around the southwestern end of Lake Baikal required 200 bridges and 33 tunnels; until its completion, a train ferry transported railcars across the lake (from Port Baikal to Mysovaya) for a number of years.

Beginning in 1956, the impounding of the Irkutsk Dam on the Angara River raised the level of the lake by 1.4 m (4.6 ft). As the railway was built, a large hydro-geographical expedition headed by F.K. Drizhenko produced the first detailed contour map of the lake bed.

Lake Baikal is in a rift valley, created by the Baikal Rift Zone, where the Earth's crust pulls apart. At 636 kilometres (395 mi) long and 79 km (49 mi) wide, Lake Baikal has the largest surface area of any freshwater lake in Asia (31,722 km2/12,248 sq mi) and is the deepest lake in the world (1,642 m/5,387 ft). The bottom of the lake is 1,186.5 metres (3,893 ft) below sea level, but below this lies some 7 km (4.3 mi) of sediment, placing the rift floor some 8–11 kilometres (5.0–6.8 mi) below the surface: the deepest continental rift on Earth.

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