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Sacred Baikal

Source:  Buryatia. The sunny side of Baikal. - Ulan-Ude, 2010. - H.12-17.

As far back as the 12th century the Arabic chronicles «Wonders of the Created World» wrote about Baikal the following: «The sea has amazingly transparent and tasty water. It is located behind the sea of Diamonds. The Almighty created it in the shape of two horns, joined together. It appeared from the underground left. And the sea is constantly n commotion and raving...»

Peoples, inhabiting Baikal region, called the lake in different ways: the Evenks called it Lamu, the Buryats - Baigal-Nuur, but most likely these are the interpretations of already existing name into native language. The first natural scientists, who tried to find out the meaning of the name «Baikal», agreed upon one interpretation -  «rich waters» (from the Turk language)-  Bai-Kul'. The first schematic representation of Baikal appeared in the «Siberian drafting book» (1699), the first Russian geographical atlas of the Russian geographer and chronologist Semyon Remezov. The first instrumental navigational chart was compiled by the navigation officer Alexey Pushkaryov in 1773.

Baikal is a freshwater lake in the south of Eastern Siberia; it is 25 million years old. Baikal contains 22 % of the world reserves of fresh water.

One can measure Baikal greatness (even for Siberian scale it is great) only after several years of living nearby. The distance between the southernmost and northernmost points is equal to that you would cover traveling between Moscow and St. Petersburg.

It is located at the altitude of 465 meters, the length is 636 km and average width makes 48 km. It is the deepest lake (1637 m) in the world. Baikal is of tectonic origin. There are 336 rivers feeding the lake, including the biggest rivers of Buryatia — the Selenga, the Verkhnaya Angara, the Barguzin River and it is drained through a single outlet - the Angara River (Irkutsk oblast' territory). There are 27 islands on the lake, the biggest one being Olkhon. Baikal freezes over in January and becomes ice-free in May. Flora and fauna of the lake are constituted by 1800 species, 3 of which are endemic: the seals, bull-head fishes, viviparous fish golomyanka, etc.

The most of Baikal water area belongs to Buryatiya. Since the time immemorial Baikal has been considered Sacred sea, the place of worship and special care. Baikal shores are framed with rocks of the most exquisite and unusual outlines, unachievable cliffs and reserved taiga, and it is impossible to get used to their beauty.

One can stay on Baikal shore all day round and, moreover, whole life, and still you will never see the same picture. And when you see all its eternal transformations, you come to realize why the locals treat it as if it were a living creature, with respect and trepidation. Nikolai Spafarii, the ambassador of the tsar Alexey Mikhailovich, when crossing Baikal was one of the pioneers announcing about the Siberian wonder. Here is what he wrote about it: «Baikal can be called the sea for the reason both its width and length, alongside with its depth are really great. And one can call it the lake because its water is fresh, not salty». Remember, the old song starts with the line: «Glorious sea, sacred Baikal». Siberian people have a kind of mystical feeling towards it. They believe, that it is not just 23 000 km3 of water in the mighty stone cup, but a living being, a magician and healer. And Baikal water is really animate with every centimetre of its depth being inhabited with numerous life forms thanks to the oxygen, which saturates the waters of the lake from bottom to surface. The water is mixed both with the help of horizontal sea streams and upward and downward vertical currents. There are thermal hot springs going from the depth of Baikal, and no pressure (although it is really tremendous at the full depth) can stop the underground forces pushing the waters up. Seismographs record up to 2000 tremors per year, and stronger earthquakes (4-5 balls) happen once in 10-12 years.

Siberian writer Valentin Rasputin gave a wonderful and lofty description of Baikal, just read this: «Nature has its favourites, which are nurtured with special care and endowed with special power. This can be undoubtedly Baikal with its wonderful vivifying power, with its spirit not of the past, but present, not depending upon time or changes, real greatness and reserved might.

And we, although living near Baikal, can not boast that we know it well, because it is impossible to fathom and understand it completely. But still, even after a short visit and a glimpse one can if not fathom, but probably feel Baikal. And Baikal spirit is really something special, making you trust the old legends and making you doubt if you are free to do anything you please in such a place. You have intimate feeling of elevation and spirituality when you visit Baikal - as if you were touched by mysterious mark of eternity and perfection, of unity with nature and penetration into it. One can not help saying: It is so good we have Baikal!...»

Scientists have been attempting to solve the mystery of Lake Baikal origin throughout 300 years now. In 2008-2009 an expedition «The Miry» (the Worlds) was carried out on Baikal and it will continue later on. The Russian bathyscaphes (deep sea boats) «Mir-1» and «Mir-2» discovered new flora and fauna species, examined exit points of deepwater hydro-therms and mud volcanoes, gained facts on tectonic processes going on at the Lake's bottom, submerged to the deepest point in Baikal which is located in the central part of the Lake, in the vicinity of the Olkhon Island where the depth confirmed by «The Miry» makes up 1637 meters.

The research proved that Baikal is still situated in the tectonically active zone - the movement of the Earth crust keeps going, the evidence of which are earthquakes in the Lake area, as well as numerous medicinal hot springs on Baikal shores.



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