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Spring at the Baikal

Source:  Baikal: four seasons.- Irkutsk, 2002.

In the Baikal Region spring does not confine itself to the three months allotted to it by the «human» calendar. The taiga, benumbed by the frost still sleeps and the triumphant cries of flocks, of birds, that have returned from warm lands, do not yet ring out. In the meantime the winds have already swept the snow away from the icy fields, polishing the transparent shield of Baikal until it shines, and in places, where the snow-drifts hid themselves from the wind, the frost and the sun have evaporated them for in winter the air here is extremely dry and seeks to quench its thirst. Availing themselves of the opportunity, the bold rays of the sun, which is becoming stronger every day, dart through the gigantic crystal lens, warming the water under the ice, awakening in it the desire to break through the frozen shell. And so the water begins to undermine the ice. With each day it becomes more and more friable and porous and by April it turns into billions of long, vertical glass needles. They stand and wait for the spring winds to come. When the warm winds come, they will fall upon the white fields, break them into pieces and begin to drive them to the banks of the lake. Only a day ago the ice was fragile and helpless, but to day this ice unexpectedly turns into a blind force, which, with ruthless bravery, breaks the trees, which grew on the banks, ruins the road-beds and moves great, heavy rocks from place to place.

Very soon the first streams force their way to the Baikal. In the beginning these streams are timid, ceasing their flow for the night only to continue their race by noon, becoming daring and loud-voiced. The flocks of birds begin their endless dialogue with the streams. Some birds sing joyously, because they have returned home, while others sing love songs for the

mating season has arrived for them. Here and there, on the thawed patches of ground, Siberian snowdrops hight their vividly blue and delicately yellow little lamps. In the southern part of Baikal, the vast ice fields break up and the enormous clods of ice strike against rocks and each other, and the air is filled with the noise of breaking ice... The chunks of ice unhurriedly move to the source of the Angara, where they are mischievously caught up by the rapids, which carry them to Irkutsk.

Because of the rapid melting of the snow, hundreds of rivers swell, and rush into Baikal, roaring and grumbling. They fall from steep slopes forming dazzling cascades and rushing from the valleys, they flow into the bleak blue sea. If you take a look at all this from the peak of one of the mountains, which stand on the banks of the lake, you will see that this crystal-clear water does not want to merge with all this chaos and violence for a long, long time: the rivers flow within Baikal and the different temperature and density of the water do not allow them to spread out.

Baby seals are born in the very beginning of spring. They appeared in little huts, which stand on ice. In order to defend her baby from all dangers, the mother seal presents him with a white fur coat. However, together with the retreating ice, the herd of Siberian seals moves to the northern part of Baikal, where the ice will not melt until the middle of June. The baby seals will grow, gain strength and begin to eat fish. Their fur will take on an amazing silvery grey-green hue, but somewhat later it will become very dark.

In spring the skies over Baikal are cloudless. This phenomenon is known to all Siberians from time immemorable. According to the scientists, there are no clouds over Baikal during the spring season because at that time the lake does not produce and mists, and that means clouds, too, since the water is colder than the air and very little of it evaporates.

Wandering clouds, which the winds bring, cannot cross the rocky ridge which surrounds this Siberian sea: they become warm and loose, and, breaking into small fragments, they melt and dissolve in the air.

It would seem that the air over Baikal must be particularly transparent at this time of the year. However, this is not the case. A light mist floats above the water, softening the contours of the surrounding landscape, lighted up by the strong rays of the sun, and covering the rocks and forests on the shore with a romantic veil.

Luxuriant grasses transform the taiga, the bronze trunks of pines become more vivid, the fir-trees turn out their tender shoots and the larches acquire new needles. In the northern part of the sea-lake the ice legion is sitting out its time, secretly hoping that all is not yet lost.

Finally a purple flame covers the banks, and it seems that an early dawn has come down on the cliffs and grasses and is in no hurry to leave. This light means that the wild rosemary has burst into bloom. (The local name for it is «bagulnik».) The limbs of this plant have no leaves, and they are covered with bright purple little stars, which seem to glitter even on a gloomy day. And it is in this tender light that the Baikal spring turns into summer.

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