Image: © Wrangel/Dreamstime.com
A fisherman’s boat in Lake Baikal
The deep, frigid waters of Lake Baikal look calm enough, but if locals are to be believed, mysteries abound in this ancient body of water. Aliens, supernatural powers, ancient curses, dragons, even a visit from Jesus – there seems to be no end to the bizarre stories linked to this freshwater lake in southern Siberia.
Yet even without the strange tales, this would be a fascinating place – one of incredible beauty and with enough ecological value to make it a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is the largest and oldest lake on Earth, not to mention one of the most biologically unique.
Image: Serge Bystro
Port Baikal, the source of the Angara River
Before we dive into the weirder myths and mysteries surrounding the lake, let’s take a look at some of the interesting facts about it. For starters, Lake Baikal is the deepest freshwater lake on Earth, reaching as far down as 5,387 feet (1,642 meters). With a surface area of 12,248 square miles (31,722 square kilometers) it is also, by volume, the world’s biggest freshwater lake.
It has been estimated that 20 percent of the planet’s unfrozen fresh water – and a whopping 90 percent of Russia’s – is to be found in Lake Baikal. It’s also been said that if all the other water on Earth dried up, there would still be enough in Baikal for all of us to drink for half a century. However, sheer size is not the only remarkable thing about it: at 25 million years old, it is also the world’s most ancient lake.