Lightning flashes in the sky above the lake.
Lake Baikal sits within a rift valley formed where the Earth’s crust drags itself asunder. The rift in which the lake is situated is the deepest in the world – yet another record associated with this amazing lake – and one that is still growing, at a rate of 0.8 inches (2 cm) every year.
In excess of 330 rivers and other tributaries flow into the lake, although it is drained by only one, the Angara River. The waters in the lake are crystal-clear, and it is possible to see up to 130 feet (40 meters) below the surface – perfect for gazing at the abundant aquatic life that makes the lake its home.
Image: © Jasniulak/Dreamstime.com
Mossy rocks along the shore of Lake Baikal
It’s not surprising that such an old and deep lake should have so many legends and mysteries attached to it, starting with its own creation story. According to folklore, Lake Baikal came into existence when a giant meteor hit the Earth and created a huge crack. It was that giant crack in the ground which became the lake. Some of the magical properties attributed to the lake include its ability to extend life – for those who are willing to risk a dip in its 23 °F (-5 °C) waters.
Trees stand silhouetted against the sunrise on the lake.
The capes and islands within the lake have their own mythology. The largest of these, Olkhon Island, is the world’s third-biggest lake island – and interestingly it is supposed to be the birthplace of Genghis Khan. Jesus is also said to have visited the area, blessing the land to the north of Baikal but dismissing the terrain south of the lake as “nothing” – which locals say explains the apparent inability to grow corn in that region. Cape Ryty on the shore to the west of the lake is believed to be cursed, and locals hold that going there can result in a sudden and early death for trespassers.