Siberia’s Baikal: The Greatest Lake
by Boyd Norton, Fellow, International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP), September 6, 2012
You know, we Siberians live in fear of being exiled to Moscow, says Leonid Yevseyev, and we both laugh. Yevseyev, a native-born Siberian, is beside me on a promontory as we look out over a stunning panorama – the mountain-rimmed lake called “Baikal.” Here the land plunges one hundred feet to waters that are a vibrant blue-green, so transparent that rocks 10 feet beneath the surface are clearly visible in the glaring sun. Bordering the meadow around us is a dense forest of pine and larch, spreading a resinous fragrance. Exiled to Moscow? Leonid and I agree: only if they take us away from here at gunpoint.
Ask almost any Russian about Baikal and the response is filled with superlatives: It is the deepest lake in the world (5,700 feet to the bottom), the largest by volume (holding 20 percent of Earth’s liquid surface freshwater) and the oldest (between 25 and 30 million years). While passing through Moscow on my many trips to Baikal, I mention my destination to friends and acquaintances and their response is invariable. Eyes take on a faraway look, voices drop close to a whisper. “Baikal,” they repeat, “I hope to go there someday.” It’s almost a prayer.
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