The Trans-Siberian train brings us to Irkutsk, a pleasant stop for the famous Lake Baikal. This lake is located in south eastern Siberia and is the oldest and deepest lake in the world. It is 25 million years old and 1637 meters deep. With a length of 636 km and average width of 40 to 60 km, it has the shape of a banana. Baikal was formed by the shifting of tectonic plates, which also explains the enormous depth. Because of the plates continuously moving apart, this lake will, sometime in the distant future, become the world’s fifth ocean and split the Asian continent of Europe.
The deepest parts lie just off the west coast, our home base. You literally just need to swim a little distance in the crystal clear lake before underneath you, a massive underwater canyon is created.
However, swimming in the lake is a challenge; the water temperature is only 8 to 10 degrees Celsius (in July). About the temperature of the North Sea during the annual New Year’s dip on January 1st, a silly Dutch tradition. Yet we hoist ourselves in our swimsuits and take a dip in the icy water. Watch the 360 video!
According to the guide that takes us back to the train station in Irkutsk a few days later, swimmers are indeed a rarity. The last tourists he saw swimming, were a group of French and a family from America. “The French were a few seconds in the water, so the family was trying to surpass it. This lasted for a while. Eventually the French won by lasting almost 40 seconds in the water of (then) about 3 degrees Celsius”.