Photographing Frozen Baikal: The Deepest and Oldest Lake On Earth

Baikal is… impressive. It’s the deepest and the cleanest lake on Earth. When we were planning our trip, we had no idea how wonderful, majestic, and fairy it would be. We were enraptured by its beauty, so much so that we almost didn’t sleep all 3 days we were there.

Lake Baikal is about 600km (373 miles) in length. The thickness of the ice on top reaches 1.5-2 meters (5-6.5 feet)—at its thickest, it can tolerate vehicles of about 15 tonnes, but sometimes we saw cars that had been fallen down.

But the ice isn’t just strong, it’s also gorgeous: displaying different patterns in different parts of the lake because the water freezes layer-by-layer. Baikal’s ice is also the most transparent in the world! You can see everything all the way to the bottom: fish, green stones, plants, and bluish gulf. The water in the lake is so clear that you can see various objects even as deep as 40 meters (130 feet).

The bubbles in the ice are the result of methane gas that is produced by algae.

Baikal is the world’s deepest lake. Its origin and age still provoke scientific arguments, so let’s just say that Baikal is the biggest reservoir of fresh water on Earth, measuring in at a depth of 1,642 meters (5,387 feet). Only two other lakes in the world are deeper than 1000 meters: lake Tanganyika (1470 m) and the Caspian Sea (1025 m).

In some parts the ice is slippery, like a mirror—you can shoot ideal reflections. A lot of travelers are moving about on skates, bicycles, or sledges. Some of them are walking for several hundreds of kilometers, sleeping in tents on the ice. It’s impossible to describe, but it’s a marvelous place—very atmospheric.

The ice is cracking all the time. When the frost is heavy, cracks divide the ice into different areas. The length of these cracks ranges from 10-30 km (6 to 18.5 miles), and the width is 2-3 m (6.5-10 feet). Cracks happen every year, approximately at the same areas of the lake. When it happens, they are followed by a loud CRACK that reminds one of thunder or a gun shot.

The ice on Baikal is there till May, but by April no one drives on it.

The only river in the world that flows from the lake is Angara, all other rivers flow into the lake. There is a legend that the Father Baikal had 336 rivers—335 sons and one daughter, Angara. All of the sons flowed into Baikal to restock the water, but the daughter fell in love with Yenisei (another river in Russia) and started to take her father’s water to her lover.

In response, father Baikal threw a huge rock into his daughter and cursed her. This rock is called Shaman-Stone; it is situated in the spring head of Angara, and is considered to be the river’s beginning.

About the author: Kristina Makeeva is a photographer and engineer based in Moscow, Russia. You can see more of her work on her website, Instagram, and 500px. This article was also published here, and has been edited for clarity.

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