At nearly 25 million years old, Lake Baikal in southern Siberia is the oldest and deepest lake in the world, and as these photos show, it’s also one of the clearest. Reaching as far as 5,387 feet (1,642 meters) deep, the lake freezes over to a thickness of 5 to 6.5 feet (1.5 to 2 meters), making it a prime lake for walking across in winter. For that reason — and of course for its beauty — the lake has become a popular tourist spot, even attracting campers who set up tents atop the frozen water.
The huge and relatively isolated lake is exceptionally biodiverse, with more than 700 endemic species of animals, including the world’s only true freshwater seal. Its flora and fauna are of special interest to evolutionary scientists hoping to study how life adapts to a specific location over time. Because of its specialized wildlife, Lake Baikal is also called the Galápagos of Russia.
Photographer Kristina Makeeva visited the lake in early 2017 and took these breathtaking photos from on top of the frozen water. “Ice is cracking all the time,” she writes on Bored Panda. “When the frost is very heavy, cracks divide ice on different areas. The length of these cracks is 6-8 miles (10-30 kilometers), and the width is 1-2 feet (2-3 meters). Cracks happen every year, approximately at the same areas of the lake. They are followed by a loud crack that is reminiscent of thunder or a gun shot. Thanks to the cracks, the fish in the lake don’t die from the lack of oxygen. Generally, the ice of Baikal carries a lot of enigmas, the majority of formations provokes the interest of scientists.
Lake Baikal, which holds about 20% of the world’s unfrozen freshwater, has 5,521 cubic miles of water (23,013 cubic kilometers). That’s about the size of all five of the North American Great Lakes combined, according to Geology.com. It’s also 397 miles long. ” You can see everything till the bottom: fish, green stones, plants and bluish gulf,” Makeeva writes. “The water in the lake is so clear, that you can see various objects on the depth of 40 meters.