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More Dive Trips

A Dive into Lake Baikal, Siberia

 

If you ever happen to take a trip on the Trans Siberian Railway across Russia, as I did recently, one of the stops on the way is the city of Irkutsk, in Eastern Siberia. Irkutsk is on the Angara river, which flows out of Lake Baikal, located about 60 km upstream all the way to the Arctic.

Lake Baikal is the world's largest (by volume) and deepest fresh water lake, containing 20% of the world's fresh water and has a maximum depth of 1.6 kilometres. Shaped like a banana (see map) near the Mongolian border, it is approximately 630 km and between 27 and 80 km wide. Geologically it about 25 million years old and is a rift lake similar to those in Africa. It is surrounded by mountain ranges on all sides, from which rivers feed the lake, the only outflow being the Angara river.

 

 

Lake Baikal is home to over 2500 endemic species of fish, crustacean and sponges and seals found nowhere else. The water is clear and drinkable due to the filtering action of the sponges. It is also cold: in August when I dived it, on the surface it was around 17degrees, but quickly dropped to 7 degrees at 25m, and colder deeper down. In winter the lake freezes over with ice about 1m thick.

 

 

The colder water is clearer, and when I dived the visibility was only about 5 to 15 metres depending on depth. Deeper down in the cold and in winter it can be 40 meters, when you have to cut a hole in the ice. I dived from the shoreline at Listvyanka, at the mouth of the Angara river, which has accommodation and a stony beach. The bottom drops slowly to about 10m then more steeply to about 30m then from maps it is over 1000m deep. There are quite a few Russian divers, doing technical stuff, and I met one lady who had been down to 70m on her own on Trimex. I hired a dry suit and dived with someone from an Irkutsk dive shop. Although there are plenty of fish in the lake, I didn't see any, as they are mostly deep down. I did see plenty of gammarus (see photos), and sponges (see photos) which are unique to the lake. The landscape of dipping canyons was interesting. At Listvyanka there is an excellent museum with an aquarium dedicated to the lake.

 

August 2014