One-Fifth of World’s Fresh Water in One Russian Lake

The 5,772-mile Trans-Siberian Railway, which is the longest passenger train in the world, takes those on board from Moscow to Vladivostok, which is less than 100 miles from the North Korean border. One scenic stopover that many make to break up the long journey is the Siberian city of Irkutsk, which is located about 40 miles northwest of Lake Baikal, by far the largest freshwater lake in the world.

Surprising to many is the fact that this lake, which covers 12,200 square miles of surface area, has more water than all of the Great Lakes, which are located in Canada and the United States and cover 94,250 square miles, combined. Lake Baikal consists of 5,500 cubic miles while the Great Lakes put together have 5,439 cubic miles. This interesting juxtaposition is due to another interesting fact about the Russian lake: It’s the deepest in the world as well, reaching as low as 5,387 feet below the surface, 3,893 feet below sea level.

Lake Baikal is also the oldest lake in the world as it dates back 25 million years. Interestingly, some geophysicists believe that Lake Baikal is an embryonic ocean and, several million years from now, will actually split Asia into two as it’s moving apart at a rate of about 0.8 inches a year.

Those looking to see Lake Baikal for themselves can, of course, take a ride on the Trans-Siberian Railway to Irkutsk. It takes roughly three days from both ends of the line, from Moscow and from Vladivostok. Airplanes also fly to International Airport Irkutsk from a variety of communities with most but not all passengers arriving from Russian cities such as Moscow. Throughout the day, buses, shuttles and boats usually leave central Irkutsk for Listvyanka, which is on the shores of Lake Baikal and about 45 miles from Irkutsk.