Lake Baikal - Russia

Lake Baikal, Siberia
is the largest lake
that’s in all the world
for it is very great.

Found in south Siberia
it is a Russian lake,
near Mongolia
which also does partake.

About 400 miles long
it is crescent-shaped—
Pearl of Siberia—
as they do relate.

People also know it
as the Sacred Sea
and this frigid water
is a mile deep.

The lake is formed by faults
that are within the rocks
and is the deepest lake on earth
before it ever stops.

Since 25 million years ago
when Baikal began,
4 miles of sediment
settled under land.

The deepest lake in all the world
and the largest too,
holds more water than Great Lakes
all combined would do.

Quakes occur all thru the day
but most of them are small.
You do not notice them
or feel them at all.

A quake in 1861
was enormous tho,
sank miles of river delta
in the lake below.

It is a natural laboratory
for ecology
with millions of years of species
evolving very slowly.

Endemic to this lake
are thousand of marine
types which always lived here,
ancient ones it seems.

Scientists around the world
gather at this place
to study many aspects
of this ancient lake.

The water there is very cold
and as it sinks below
carries oxygen to depths
as far as it will go.

This makes for life at any depth,
plants and creatures too,
evolving over millions years
as time and creatures do.

Water is so pure
that in a beaker full,
the glass will stain the water—
very wonderful.

A very small crustacean
make the waters pure—
straining out bacteria
and algae that occur.

Nerpa are the seals
endemic to this lake.
60,000 live here
and their home do make.

Almost 5’long
are the only seals
living in fresh water
all around the year.

3,000 miles from ocean,
how did they get there?
It is a mystery
that is undeclared.

Seals live throughout Baikal
but favor islands there
near the center of the lake,
remote and tranquil fare.

An allotment is allowed
to the hunters there
of the Nerpa seals
so they won’t get too scarce.

In the winter ice does freeze
to a meter thick
and not only people
but trucks go out on it.

At one time a railroad
crossed this icy lake,
carrying flatcars on it
and it didn’t break.

The people go ice-fishing
and have a little shack
they pull out on the ice
with runners fore and aft.

Some do have wood stoves
for it gets very cold
and they can fish in comfort
thru the ice below.

The fish found most abundantly
are grayling, pike and perch
an omul, one endemic
to this lake at first.

In the spring the ice does thaw
and the boats come out—
tugs and timber barges
and fishing boats about.

The ships around Baikal
are mostly painted gray
excepts the research vessel—
white and red and gay.

Sarma, the west wind,
has taken many lives
especially in storms
arising in surprise.

It is very violent,
100 miles an hour
and unpredictable,
full of squalls and showers.

The Shamanist god Burkhan
is called god of the lake.
They say that he is evil
and try hard to placate.

Before a fishing trip
the men do stand around
and flip some fodka from their hand
straight upon the ground.

They hope this will appease him
and storms will miss their ship
and they will come back safely
from hunting, fishing trips.

Baikal is so enormous
that even sailors say
they are ‘going to sea’
in a serious way.

The people on the north side
are of Mongolian name.
They lived here long before
the Russian trappers came.

They are called Buryat
on north and eastern shores
and have their own republic
serving them the more.

Some live on Olkhon island,
the largest island there.
The cliffs considered holy
by the Buryat there.

The trees and bushes are adorned
with colored strips of cloth—
amulets’ protection
against an evil loss.

It is the driest island
for rain does always fall
on the windward side of mountains
leaving none at all.

Even in the winter
it usually doesn’t snow
which seems odd for Russia
and Siberia we know.

The Buryat on the island
tend their sheep in peace
but sarma or the west wind
devastation leaves.

Once government destroyed
the Buryat way of life
and put down Lamaist Buddhism
with much death and strife.

Many people died
in this evil time
and lamaseries were destroyed
with great loss of life.
The army also raided homes,
destroying Buddhist shrines.

Today however overcome
the evils of the past.
Perestroika brings new freedom
and new monks amassed.
Lamaseries are allowed
and work as in the past.

A giant plant for cellulose
lies on the S.W. shore,
belching stacks of smoke
the people do deplore.

Pollution of the water
is very heavy here
and the people hate it,
this monster very drear.

Thousands of the people,
from every walk of life,
have tried to get it stopped
to no avail they find.

The government does run the plant
and it’s unlikely now
that it will ever stop
or be changed somehow.

Besides the plant for cellulose
which pollutes the lake
is the Selenga River,
full of human waste.

It rises in Mongolia
and from 4 major towns,
human and industrial waste
ever washes down.
A decree was recently
made against this plant.
But it does remain,
in spite of any ban.

Hazards to the lake
seem to be ignored
and it seems to stay
planted evermore.

People from all walks of life
hate this plant built here
for they hold Baikal
as being very dear.

It is their Sacred Lake
most precious to them now
and no enormous plant
should interfere somehow.

Openly they protest
for the plant to go
but so far it remains
with their steady moan.

Most people in vast Russia
have one lasting dream,
to see this Lake Baikal
in their life it seems.

People here consider
that living on the lake
is a greatest privilege
or a trip do take.

The water there is clean and pure
and you may drink it too.
The mountains ring it all around,
with snow and trees the view.

It is a greatest treasure
of their Motherland—
clear and pure and beautiful
just as nature planned.

It is a lake and is a dream
for every Russian soul,
to spark a dreary life
and to make it whole.

National Geographic – June, 1992

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