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Journal
The Greatest Lake
Siberia might conjure images of a cold wasteland, but a giant lake situated near the Mongolian border suggests otherwise.

Lake Baikal, named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations, is truly a place of superlatives. Consider the following:

  • It is the oldest lake in the world: 25 million to 30 million years.
  • It is the deepest lake in the world: 5,400 feet at its deepest point.
  • It is the world’s largest freshwater lake by volume: more than 5,500 cubic miles of water (about 20 percent of earth’s surface freshwater).
  • It is as big as New Hampshire: more than 12,000 square miles (400 miles long and, on average, 30 miles wide).
  • It is a place of astounding biodiversity: more than 2,600 species of plants and animals.
  • It is home of the world’s largest flatworm, which can grow to almost 16 inches, and hunts fish for food.
  • It is the only place on with a species of freshwater seal: the nerpa is sometimes known as the world’s “bloodiest” seals, since they carry about four more pints of blood than any other seal; this allows nerpas to stay underwater without breathing for 70 minutes.
  • It is exceptionally clear: visibility to depths of 130 feet.
  • It is on shaky ground: lake lies at the intersection of three tectonic plates, which (softly) quake every few hours.

 

For more on Lake Baikal, read “Sacred Sea,” by Boyd Norton, appearing in Audubon’s November-December issue.

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