Ask Baikal

Hi there! My name is Maxim Milyutin. I am based in Irkutsk, Russia's Siberia. Traveller, organiser of local travel talks, and owner of Irkutsk hostel. Travel for me is not necessary movement to some place far away from home, it's a state of soul. That's why I like to travel around my home region and and abroad as well. I'm happy to share my knowledge about Baikal with everybody! Feel free to ask me about Lake Baikal via the contact form Tatiana Baksheeva, our previous blog runner, remains with us as a contributor.

The King of Iced Seas… continued)

Here are some more beautiful Lake Baikal ice panoramas… You know. these pics really make me thinking about hiking on frozen Lake Baikal… What about you?

Scientists predict that Baikal will exist even when the face of our planet will change beyond recognition - and it's many thousands of years.

Locals call Lake Baikal – the Sea. Its length is 636 kilometers and its width is only 80

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The King of Iced Seas

I found these amazing panoramas at the and definitely wanted to share. The web-site is on Russian language, so I translated captions for pics. Enjoy!

Every year a solid ice cover binds waters of Lake Baikal. In this respect, Baikal is an exception among the larger lakes in the world. These panoramas were made by Andrey Kamenev at a -20C temperature

The temperature on Lake Baikal shores is higher than in neighboring cities – Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude. On average, it is-21C

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How huge Baikal waves are?

I’ve been recently asked if strong winds ever whip up giant waves on Lake Baikal and where on the lake would large waves be most likely to form.

As in any lake, waves in Lake Baikal arise from the effects of wind on water, on the difference of atmospheric pressure on different parts of the valley, from earthquakes, from the tides, from undersea volcanic eruptions, from the vessels motion and other external forces.

Lake Baikal waves. Photo by

Lake Baikal waves. Photo by

Lake Baikal waves. Photo by

Waves on Lake Baikal may reach a height of 4 meters. Sometimes they evaluated as 5 and even 6 meters, but it is most likely an estimation “by eye”, which has a large error. Height of 4 meters obtained by instrumental measurements on the high seas. The waves are usually strong in autumn and spring, and even in winter before lake freezes. In the summer on Lake Baikal strong waves and storms are rare.

Waves at summer time. Photo courtesy Yaroslav Vityazev

Waves in October. Photo courtesy R.Sinitsina

Waves in January. Photo by

There are winds that blow along the valley, and also transverse winds, that associated with the atmospheric general circulation – transit and local. There are several strongest winds at Lake Baikal:
  • north-western wind – Gorny (Mountain wind);
  • Barguzin, or north-eastern;
  • then Verkhovik (in the northern part of the lake it’s also so-called Angara);
  • Kultuk, or south-western;
  • Shelonnik, or south-eastern wind;
  • and Sarma, north-west wind in the area, opposite the mouth of the Sarma river.
Almost every wind may cause strong waves, but the most severe is Mountain wind. It’s associated with largest disasters at Lake Baikal and is very dangerous for navigation, especially in the middle of the lake. In 2009 during the storm a ship was thrown to the coast, none of the four crew members were injured.

An unusual wedding at Lake Baikal

A young couple from Irkutsk decided to celebrate their wedding day … under water. The newlyweds wore a diving suits, special equipment and plunged into the lake near the village of Listvyanka to a depth of 10-12 meters, where they stayed for twenty minutes. Underwater newlyweds even opened a bottle of champagne. The groom was an initiator of such a non-traditional wedding. He is a professional diver. The bride was very supportive to his idea. He said that she was very happy because she had some diving experience at Lake Baikal. They made a video, and here are some shots from this video.

After the wedding the bride decided to enroll in diving more seriously.

Oh, forgot to tell you – it happened on December 20th, the temperature outside was -15C.

What do you think about this idea, dear Readers? Would you do the same?

Baikal Superlatives #8. Chilliest Lake

Even in June the Nerpa are found basking on ice floes. The water temperature by mid-June is normally only 4 degrees Centigrade (amazingly, millions of years ago Baikal was a warm swallow lake with tropical plants growing on its shores).

Nerpa at Ushkaniy Island, Photo courtesy Vasiliy Maslukov

Baikal Superlatives #6. Greatest depression on land

The bottom of the lake is composed of an extraordinarily thick layer ?? sediment. In some places the depth from surface to bedrock is more than 7 kilometres, or 7 times as deep as the Grand Canyon.

Lake Baikal shore stones. Photo courtesy Vasiliy Maslukov

Are there undiscovered islands at Lake Baikal?

I’ve been asked if there are any undiscovered islands at Lake Baikal. Baikal is quite well-studied and according to open sources there are no undiscovered islands there at the moment. However, everything is changing)

To make my answer more complete, I decided to describe some islands of the Lake. There are different opinions on how many islands actually are at the Lake.

Wiki says that there are 27 islands at Lake Baikal.

The largest one is Olkhon Island, its length 71 km, width – up to 12 km, area – 730 square km. There is the deepest point – 1637 meters – not far from the outer side of island.

Olkhon Island. Photo by Vasiliy Maslukov

There are also Uskanyei Islands, a small archipelago of rocky shores in the middle of Lake Baikal near the Holy Nose Peninsula (Republic of Buryatia). There are 4 islands in the archipelago – Big Ushkaniy (the area of ??9.4 km²), the maximum height above the lake – about 210 meters, and Thin, Round and Long islands. They are covered with larch forest. There are Baikal Seal rookeries on the banks. Human impact is minimal, because these islands are part of the Trans-Baikal National Park. One needs permission to land for visiting Ushkaniye Islands.

Ushkaniye Islands. Photo by Vasiliy Maslukov

Yarki Island is located at the north of Lake Baikal, its length is 20 km, and width from 10 to 200 meters. The island is rapidly destroying because of its sandy structure and the constant rise of water level in Lake Baikal.

Yarki Island. Photo by Anna Lempert

The writer and Baikal researcher Vitaliy Bryanskiy in his book “Hello, Baikal!” (1989) says there are 35 islands at Lake Baikal. He suggests that Lake Baikal has also such islets as separate large stones, boulders, pebbles or clusters.  Some of them have vegetation and nests with gulls’ eggs.

Currently, most of the islands of Lake Baikal are enlisted as natural monuments or included to the two national parks.

Impossible2Possible’s “2010 Siberian Express for Water” Lake Baikal winter trekking expedition. Video, photos, interview w/ Ray Zahab

Impossible2Possible Siberian Express Lake Baikal trek map

These are photographs of the last year’s winter trekking expedition “Siberian Express for Water” done by Impossible2Possible (i2P) along Russia’s Lake Baikal from its very south to its very north. 650 km on the ice! Incredible achievement!

Here’s what the Siberian Express for Water expedition participants say:

In 2010 i2P Founder Ray Zahab and i2P Ambassador Kevin Vallely teamed up for another epic impossible2Possible expedition. The two adventurers travelled to the far reaches of frozen Siberia and the remote shores of Lake Baikal, the oldest, deepest lake in the world, to run some 650km unsupported down the length of its frozen surface. The team averaged approximately 50km per day on this grueling expedition, while hauling all of their food and supplies. Over 8,500 students took part in both the Experiential Learning program and fundraising initiative for water projects in Africa.

Learn more on the expedition website.

Great news!

Apart from photographs, Ray Zahab sent me answers to our questions. Further, please, find the interview with him. Additionally, the documentary about the expedition is attached.

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Baikal Superlatives #5. Seventh Larget Lake (in surface area)

At 34,000 square kilometers, Baikal is larger than Belgium. Crescent-shaped, 636 kilometers (400 miles) north-to-south, 81 kilometers across, it has 2000 kilometers of shoreline. It is more or less the same size as Lake Superior.

Lake Baikal. A view from Ushkaniy Island to Svyatoy Nos (Saint Nose). Photo courtesy Vasiliy Maslukov

Baikal Superlatives #4. Largest Lake (in volume)

Baikal contains 23,000 cubic kilometers of pure, delicious, oxygen-saturated, life-giving water, more than all five Great Lakes combined. This is one-fifth of all fresh water liquid reserves on earth. It takes 400 years for all the water in Baikal to drain out through its outlet, the Angara river.

Lake Baikal's pure water. Photo courtesy Vasiliy Maslukov