Glorious sea, sacred Baikal,

Glorious boat, a barrel of cisco.

Hey, Barguzin make the waves rise and fall!

This young lad's ready to frisk-o!

From a translation of Master and Margarita, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (1997, p. 191 ) ISBN 0141180145

Yes, you'll find adventure and good fishing for omul on Lake Baikal. It's immense depths earn it top place in freshwater lakes around the world. Along with good fishing, you'll find a good place to vacation, scuba dive, set up industry or even research cosmic particles.

How big is the lake? 23,615.39 km3 is hard to understand in terms of your neighbor's swimming pool. To put this into perspective, imagine the time required to fill Lake Baikal, if you had an empty reservoir and could direct the Amazon River into it:

Volume 
-----------  = time
Flow rate 

Lake Baikal volume 
-------------------------  = time to fill
Amazon River flow rate 

23,615.39 km3 * (1000 m / 1 km)3 
----------------------------------------------  = time to fill (years)
(219,000 m3/sec) *(31,556,926 sec / 1 year ))

or, approximately  3.42 years

To fill this swimming pool, you'd need a garden hose with the capacity of the Amazon River flowing for 3.42 years. Where does all this water come from? where does it go? how long does it spend in the lake?

A huge lake has a few requirements to prevent it from evaporating or becoming salty. Like the great lakes, the basin needs to be large enough to contain the immense volume. Next, a drainage basin needs to be wide enough to catch all the water and fill the basin. To keep the water fresh, or at low salinity, water needs to move quickly enough to overcome the effect of evaporation leaving salts behind. Without both sources and sinks for fresh water, you'll end up with a salty sea like the Dead Sea, where water enters from a large drainage basin but can only leave through evaporation.

Compare Lake Baikal to some of the other largest freshwater sources around the world:

======= Amazon River ======= 
Length 	6,400 km (4,000 mi) approx.
Basin 	7,050,000 km2 (2,720,000 sq mi) approx.
Average discharge 219,000 m3/s (7,734,000 cu ft/s)

======= Lake Baikal ======= 
Max. length 	636 km (395 mi)
Max. width 	79 km (49 mi)
Surface area 	31,722 km2 (12,248 sq mi)
Average depth 	744.4 m (2,442 ft)
Max. depth 	1,642 m (5,390 ft)
Water volume 	23,615.39 km3 (5,700 cu mi)
Volume 23,615.39 km3 (5,700 cu mi)
Shoreline 2,100 km (1,300 mi)
Peak visibility 40-50 m 

======= Lake Superior ======= 
Max. length 	350 mi (560 km)
Max. width 	160 mi (260 km)
Surface area 	31,820 sq mi (82,400 km2) 
Average depth 	482 ft (147 m)
Max. depth 	1,332 ft (406 m)
Water volume 	2,900 cu mi (12,000 km3)
Residence time 	191 years
Shore length1 	2,725 mi (4,385 km)

======= Lake Huron ======= 
Max. length 	206 mi (332 km)
Max. width 	152 mi (245 km)
Surface area 	23,010 sq mi (59,600 km2)
Average depth 	195 ft (59 m)
Max. depth 	750 ft (230 m)
Water volume 	849 cu mi (3,540 km3)
Residence time 	22 years
Shore length1 	3,825 mi (6,156 km)

======= Lake Erie ======= 
Max. length 	241 mi (388 km)
Max. width 	57 mi (92 km)
Surface area 	9,940 sq mi (25,744 km2)
Average depth 	62 ft (19 m)
Max. depth 	210 ft (64 m)
Water volume 	116 cu mi (480 km3)
Residence time 	2.6 years
Shore length1 	850 mi (1,370 km)

======= Lake Michigan  ======= 
Max. length 	307 mi (494 km)
Max. width 	118 mi (190 km)
Surface area 	22,400 sq mi (58,000 km2)
Average depth 	279 ft (85 m)
Max. depth 	923 ft (281 m)
Water volume 	1,180 cu mi (4,900 km3)
Residence time 	99 years
Shore length 	1,638 mi (2,636 km)

Dive right in, the water is fine. Trade in your wetsuit for a drysuit though, since this isn't Florida. Ice isn't a problem for advanced and technical divers, who enjoy improving visibility during the winter months after parts of the lake have frozen over. When the lake freezes each winter, many parts are thick enough to support heavy trucks so a boat is unnecessary to reach the dive site. Adventurous aquanauts will be rewarded with an average visibility of about 40-50 meters. Like any lake, the visibility changes throughout the year, with best conditions in June (30 – 40 m) and dropping in August (10-12 m). Explore the lake, or stage an underwater performance! Legends surround "Shaman rock," located near the mouth of the Angara River and Khuzhir.

You might see a school of the small salmon-like whitefishes or “omul” (Coregonus autimnalis), which are a delicacy around Russia and are threatened by overfishing. There are also gobies, small fishes that can change color according to their surroundings and live among fresh water sponges. You'll definitely see golomyankas too, the most numerous fish in the lake. While they spend most of their lives at depths between 700–1600 feet (213-488 meters) due to the temperature, they drift throughout all depths. They spawn rapidly, and are the largest fish biomass in the lake. Vicious storms pull scores of these small fish out of the waters, and locals used to harvest this windfall for oil. Towards the northern end of the lake, you might see the Baikal sturgeon (Acipenser baerii), which is fished for its meat and is also a source of premium caviar. The Baikal fresh water seal, called "nerpa" (Pusa sibirica) by locals, also lives near the Ushkany Islands and feeds mainly on the abundant golomyanka. The prime minister of Russia Vladimir Putin also explored the depths, but in a minisub and cozy sweater on his trip with scientists.

The deep, clear waters are also a good place to study cosmic particles. At the southwestern end near mouth of Angara River, the Baikal Deep Underwater Neutrino Telescope (BDUNT) detects faint flashes of light from neutrinos when they interact with water molecules. An array of detectors 1366 m deep was installed in 1993 to monitor Cherenkov radiation from these fast, elusive particles. Each time a neutrino or other fast-moving particle interacts with water, detectors can measure the dim flash of blue light. The array calculates the direction of each particle by triangulating the delays and locations between when different detectors sense the flashes.

It shouldn't be difficult to get where you're going, since the lake has been well-connected for decades. The Trans-Siberian Railroad circles the lake, with stations in major cities. Russia plans to expand the railway with a parallel track and more connections to cities.

======= LINKS =======

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