Journey To The Bottom Of Lake Baikal

Posted by: Loren Coleman on July 29th, 2008


Today, July 29, 2008, Russian scientists will attempt to reach the bottom of the world’s deepest freshwater abyss in a bid to find unknown life forms as well as claim a new record.

In the realm of cryptozoology, the so-called “Lake Baikal Monster” is described by some as being a sturgeon-like cryptid, while others have likened it to a giant pinniped or large marine mammal.

“We want to study, observe Lake Baikal” in order to “preserve it,” said expedition leader Artur Chilingarov, a pro-Kremlin member of parliament who led a team of scientists that planted a Russian flag at the bottom of the North Pole in August last year.

Chilingarov, who boasts of enjoying the “full support” of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, spent July 28th inspecting the mission’s ship, anchored at Tourka and carrying the Mir-1 and Mir-2 submarine pods which, weather permitting, will head for the 1,637-metre (5,402 feet) bed of the lake, near Siberia’s southern borders with Mongolia and China.

On Sunday, July 27th, and on Monday morning, July 28th, what locals affectionately call “the sea” actually looked more like a raging ocean, such were the high winds.

Three men in each pod will try to “reach the lowest point” of the giant lake, a UN world heritage site which contains around a fifth of the world’s freshwater reserves.

There are suggestions that it might be even deeper than previously thought. Intense water pressure means that previous expeditions have never gone below a quarter of its presumed depth. Chilingarov’s deputy Anatoly Sagalevich said the lake has “perhaps not been properly studied” given past measurements had to rely on pure mathematics alone.

But Sagalevich says tests have gone well, even if the weather made Sunday’s preparations “quite complicated.” The main obstacle they have to overcome is that the water’s density at depth is “much more feeble” than seawater, he said, impacting on pressure.

“We will drop at a rate of 30 metres per minute,” Sagalevich said. “Practically vertical. It will take in total between one hour and an hour and a quarter to complete the mission.

“The most important aspect will be visual observation,” he said, highlighting three special windows located at the front of the craft and a series of video and stills cameras attached to the pods.

They may not match the find of the crew in the fictional movie “The Abyss,” but Sagalevich expects the mission to uncover previously unidentified species.

Aside from some of the world’s most unusual freshwater flora and fauna, samples taken in previous dives also suggest deposits of gases, notably methane, and even oil, which may be explored in follow-up experiments in the coming months.

“It will be a success if we can find something new for scientific research,” Sagalevich said.

However, he dismissed environment campaigners’ fears that the operation is intended to sniff out fresh energy reserves. “We have enough gas and oil,” he said, pointing to the vast Siberian deposits all around.

In May 2006, Russian environmentalists heaved a collective sigh of relief when then president Putin ordered a change in the route of a new oil pipeline to reduce the danger of it polluting one of the great ecological wonders of the world.

Of course, the political dimension of Tuesday’s dive should not be overlooked either. For not only is Putin personally backing the bid to pierce one of Earth’s final frontiers, but the flag of his ruling United Russia party will also fly proudly from the roof of the ship’s quarters.


Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

10 Responses to “Journey To The Bottom Of Lake Baikal”

  1. Spinach Village responds:

    This is great.. except I too am nervous about the “Oil Factor”…
    but wow this lake is deep huh? I hope they do find the Lake Baikal Monster… or atleast something new

    i was cuckling reading this, as i kept thinking about Bill Murray in “The Life Aquatic”

  2. Lightning Orb responds:

    I hope they find something really strange – be it sinister sturgeon, monstrous manatee, or something else altogether; cool article, thank you for the info

  3. Ayala responds:

    I think this is really exciting. I have always wanted to visit Lake Baikal (it will never happen). It is so beautiful and reports say the locals are so friendly. We found really strange aquatic life deep in the sea, so I don’t see why there won’t be strange and wonderful new creatures at the bottom of Lake Baikal. 🙂

  4. gkingdano responds:

    The OIL factor is probably the REAL reason for the expedition especially with the full backing of the top govt. backing and that this is the same guy who planted the flag on the arctic sea bottom to claim the sea for Russian oil expliotation. What I am really surprised at is that they have never done this before.

  5. Ceroill responds:

    I saw a brief item about this on BBC World News America late last night. Not much description aside from the very basic, but they did show the submersible being used. Pretty cool, I think, even if mostly searching for oil.

  6. Munnin responds:

    Wow, very cool! I hope we’ll eventually get to see at least some of the photos and video that they shoot. I’d love to see what the view out those windows is like; especially once they get down below the previously explored depths.

    It seems to me unlikely that they’d be looking for extractable oil, considering Putin’s re-routing of a pipeline to keep from accidentally polluting the lake. But anything’s possible in the realm of geopolotics and economics, I suppose. And it certainly may be that Putin stands to gain some political clout for him and his party through backing the expedition, but that doesn’t lessen my excitement about it, nor my interest in its findings.

  7. red_pill_junkie responds:

    That lake has something more valuable than oil or gas, which will become even more precious in the years to come: fresh water.

  8. mystery_man responds:

    This is fascinating. Lake Baikal is really quite an amazing, unique, and somewhat mysterious ecosystem. I am very much looking forward to hearing about any new findings these gentlemen come up with.

  9. dogu4 responds:

    I find it hard to believe that the exploration is about oil. It’s much easier to explore on dry land and besides the geologic history of the lake indicates that its not the kind of basin in which entrapment is likely. Gas hydrates, sure and even likely, but not likely to be a good place to begin commercial harvesting when far easier concentrations occur in other large deep marine situations, but oil? Unlikely to be particularly in a tectonically rifting situation. Never the less, the other threats from modern industrial technologies and economies are real and should provoke some concern from those who value the natural historiy value of this lake in particular.

  10. Maven responds:

    Any follow-ups on this?

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