Winter on Lake Baikal

Photos and Text by Philippe Bourseiller

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Exploring the 'Pearl of Siberia'

Lake Baikal, located in southern Siberia, is the largest supply of liquid freshwater on the Earth's surface. The transparency of its waters allows a perfect visibility up to 40 meters deep. It is sometimes called the "Pearl of Siberia,” and, for its first inhabitants, the Mongolian Buryates, the lake was a sacred sea. It stretches over a length of 636 km with a width ranging from 24 km to 79 km and an area of 31,722 km2, making it the 6th largest lake in the world by surface area. It is also the deepest lake (up to 1,642 m of water column, resting on 7,000 meters of sediment). Its volume of water (23,600 km2) is about 260 times that of Lake Geneva, as much as the Baltic Sea or the five major North American lakes (Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario) combined.

Between December and May, Lake Baikal is covered with ice, the thickness of which, towards the end of winter, can reach 1 m, or even 1.5 to 2 m in some places, allowing the movement of people and vehicles. Its ice hummocks are among the most beautiful in the world in terms of transparency, purity and colours. They look very much like crystal.

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