"We are not going to assure anyone that there's nothing more beautiful than Lake Baikal as each of us loves and adores his or her own birthplace. Still, Nature has its favorites which it creates with the particular zeal and endows with the special might.
When first seeing Lake Baikal one gets impressed by its grandeur dignity. The blue bulk cut into the ring of mountains, covered with fresh smelling taiga forest, breathes freely, lazily throws its foamless waves onto the shoreline rocks. Behind this slow motion it feels the colossal might which is the only one in the whole world who can allow itself such serenity and peace.
The tribes who inhabited Lake Baikal area from ancient times called Baikal in their own ways. Evenki (Eskimos) called it Lamuh, the Buryats had a name Baigal-Nuur for it, but it seems those are the translations of the ever existed names into their languages. The naturalists who first tried to learn the meaning of the word Baikal came to the conclusion that it could mean "rich waters" from the Turkic "Bai-Kul' ". Baikal was first marked on the map in "The Draft of Siberian Land" made in 1667, its scheme was depicted in "The Draft Book of Siberia" (1699) - the first Russian atlas made by the Russian geographer and historian S.U. Remizov. The first instrumental sea map of the lake was made by navigator Alexey Pushkaryov in 1773.
One can stand on the shore of Lake Baikal the whole day and never see the same view twice. Looking at its endless transformations it becomes clear why the local people talk about it as it were a human being, they treat it respectfully and with a thrill. Many of them think that Baikal can get angry or offended with them. The Siberians always call it "Sea". It's understandble that a famous old song about the lake starts with a line "Glorified Sea, sacred Baikal". Frankly speaking the Siberians have mystic feelings towards the lake. They say it's not just a reservoir of 23,000 cubic kilometers of water filled in a colossal stone bowl, but a human being, magician and healer, who doesn't like bad jokes and shouldn't be troubled that much.
Baikal is the lake of superlatives. The deepest (medium depth is 730 meters, the deepest point is 1637 meters down near Izhimey Cape at Olkhon Island), the oldest, the biggest freshwater supply of the world (around 20%), the most number of endemic species of flora and fauna.
The level of Lake Baikal basin is situated on the altitude of 456 meters over the sea level and the bottom is 1181 meters below the sea level. The supply of the fresh water in the lake would be enough for the consumption by the population of the world during 40 years, and 46 x 1015 people of the globe would drink the water from the lake simultaneously.
Academician I.G. Georgi first made the conclusion about tectonic origin of the lake in 1772. The present forms could be formed relatively not long ago, during the glacial or postglacial periods, as the development of Baikal's basin continues nowadays. The multiple earthquakes and tremors witness in favor of this theory. The seismographs mark around 2,000 tremors here annually, but they are quite weak, the stronger ones are fixed once in 10-12 years. The basin of Baikal consists of three separate parts - southern, medial and northern which are separated by two underwater mountain ridges - Medial or Selenginsky and Academic (the mountain tops are the Ushkaniye Isles). The northern part is the most shallow ( maximum depth is 890 meters down), the southern part is to 1419 meters deep , the medial one is down to 1637 meters deep.
After crossing the lake in the last quarter of the 18th century the Tzar Alexey Mikhalovich's Ambassador Nikolai Spefariy was the first to declare to the world about the siberian wonder. Here is what he wrote: "Baikal, due to its length, depth and width could be called a sea. At the same time it could be named a lake as the water in it is fresh, not salty".
Indeed Baikal water is the water of life: from the surface down to the bottom it accomodated a magnitude of diverse life forms. In comparison with many other deep lakes of the world, the water of which is lifeless in their lower layers (they are poisoned by hydrogene sulphide and other gases), the water of Lake Baikal is highly saturated with oxygene. The water is being mixed by both horizontal sea currents around each of its three parts and vertical rising and falling streams. The deepwater thermal springs send their waters up in spite of the enormous deepwater pressure. It is no obstacle for the spurts to reach the higher levels of the reservoir.