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Autumn at the Baikal

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

From the time the world discovered Baikal became known in all parts of the world every year, particularly in the summer, thousands of curious tourists come to the ancient shores of this sea-lake. If we take into account the so-called «wild» tourists we can say that in the off-shore taiga trees, grasses, rocks, glaciers and rivers experience the pressure of nearly a million tourists, who come to see the mysterious Baikal. And though these people, which they learn immediately, very few of them can say that they have personally experienced the force of the local wind -the barguzin. In summer this wind begins to blow in the morning and calms down only at night. However in autumn it can blow throughout an entire week. At those times, the water loses its greenness and it seems that every rush of the barguzin adds new portions of thick blue to the water. Baikal becomes darker, the crests of the waves flash out like white lightnings and the waves hurry and rush, driven on by the famous wind. The fishermen are happy because after the barguzin there appear more fishes in the coastal waters. The wind drives the plankton to these waters and the shoals come here to feed.

In autumn the weather in the Baikal region is usually sunny and bright. The sun, anticipating winter, shines dazzlingly, lighting up the leaves of birches and aspens, and the needles of the fir-trees. It seems that the hot light from the skies flows down to the ground, and the taiga seems to shine in the crimson and golden beauty of autumn. At that time there is no place on earth more fitting than this one to watch the stars and sky. The air is so transparent that one can see with the naked eye the summits of coastal mountain ranges, which are over two hundred kilometres away.

But all of a sudden, in broad daylight clouds collect in the sky, the strong whirlwind blows out the warmth, and the snow-filled clouds touch the summits covered with trees, and a strange picture unfolds before our gaze: the clouds seem to make the taiga colourless and the forest becomes «grey-haired». These early messengers of winter sometimes bring unexpected snow, which continuously falls for two or three days in a row. Weightless snowflakes fall on the leaves of the September trees and little by little the weight of the snow cover becomes unbearable and the young birches bow down their crowns to the grey grass while the old and powerful giants cannot withstand the pressure and they fall down pulling out their roots from the earth. On such days Baikal becomes black, gloomy waves beat against the coastal rocks throwing out splashes of water, which are like reflections of the snow.

In autumn the omul shoals go to the tributaries of Baikal for spawning. This takes place at the time when the temperature of the Baikal water and the water of the tributaries is the same. It seems that some unique lock has been opened and the fishes swim into the rivers with clean, transparent water the bottoms of which are covered with sand and pebbles. Billions of spawns will for some months lie here without fear of the lower winter temperature since the spawning place never freezes to the bottom. In late autumn, when the night frosts alternate with elegiac daytime warmth, the flow of mountain waters into the lake gradually diminishes because the streams and minute tributaries become motionless under the ice cover. The larger tributaries now freeze, now break through the thin white armour and rush toward Father Baikal, bringing him their last pre-winter contribution.

Baikal is troubled and it seems to shiver from the cold - its warm water escaped into the depths already in early autumn, warming the depths and lending them its superficial warmth. In the winter, from the mysterious gloom, a part of this warmth will return to the surface. The winds rock the waters more and more often and the waves shine with a bleak light.

Suddenly silence sets in end" summer, which seems to have forgetten something in the depths of the taiga, returns shining with triumph. It sometimes happens that it deceives the bird cherry and it begins to blossom, taking the false warmth for spring. However such days appear less and less frequently, and very soon winter will appropriate everything that surrounds the lake. And only Baikal will continue to storm and rage thinking that it is as young and strong, as it was in spring.




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