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Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal is the world's oldest lake of tectonic origin and is believed to be between 25 and 50 MILLION years old. The lake is more than a mile deep, and scientists estimate that its sediment extends four more miles beneath the lake floor.

Lake Baikal is also the largest lake with 20% of the world's fresh water supply. The 400-mile long lake has more water than is in all the Great Lakes combined. 335 rivers feed into the Lake and one drains out of it, the Angara River. Three main tributaries – the Selenga, the Verkhnaya Angara and the Barguzin — carry three quarters of the annual run-off (58.8 cu. km. of water), the missing quarter is supplied by other small rivers.

Lake Baikal is cherished as the "Jewel of Siberia", because of its beauty and clarity. Baikal is more like an inland sea than lake, with the world's only species of freshwater seals, a complex system of self-purification and hot water vents that nurture life in the deep.

70% of species found in Baikal region are endemics (can be found nowhere else in the world). The lake is rich in commercial and really delicious fish – the omul, the trout of Siberia — the grayling, the sig, and the sturgeon.

Baikal Region has been inhabited and considered sacred by many different non-Slavic cultures for centuries. The Olkhon Island is thought to be the birthplace of the Mongolian ruler, Genghis Khan. In 1996, UNESCO named Lake Baikal a "World Heritage Site, placing 3.15 hectares under International protection."

Lake Baikal supports more than 2,500 species - including 960 kinds of animals and 400 plants found only here. Among them are the nerpa, a freshwater seal that migrated from the Arctic a million years ago. One of the main reasons for the lake's purity is the tiny but abundant ephisura, a crustacean that ingests algae and bacteria. The region is protected by national parks and reserves. The Barguzin Preserve is one of the oldest not only in Siberia but in the whole of Russia. Originally created for the protection of the sable, it subsequently, by decree of Soviet po-wer, took on the protection of flora, fauna, trees and grasses in general. Its area is over 260,000 hectares.

The three-kilometre stretch of the Baikal shore has also beco¬me a preserve with its special laws where fishing is forbidden over an area of 15,000 hectares.

In 1970 the Baikal Preserve, with an area of 165,000 hectares, was created in the territory of Buryatiya adjacent to the lake.

The Circum-Baikal Railroad

Permanently commissioned in 1905, this 100 km stretch from the port and station of Baikal to the village of Kultuk was called "The Trans-Sib Golden Buckle", owing to the middle position between the western and eastern ends of the Great Way, expenses involved, and the brilliance of project execution. One kilometer of the track required 400 freight-car loads of soil, which is comparable with the volume of work on the Suez Canal, and about a freight-car load of explosives.