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June, 09, 2017

Zoological and Ecological Monuments of Baikal

Baikal and its surroundings present an inexhaustible treasury for those who seek new impressions. In addition to well-known tourist places, there are very special places: ecological monuments where you can meet unique plants and animals see fantastic landscapes and get a warm in thermal springs.

Northern Baikal

The first of such places is a younger brother (or sister?) of Lake Baikal, Lake Frolikha. In addition to the rare Frolikh char fish and the picturesque alpine meadows, there is also a river which, by a strange coincidence, is also called Frolikha. In turn, it feeds on a hot spring, which is called ... right, “Frolikha” hot spring! The temperature of the spring water is 58-68° C, and it is hydrocarbonate-sulfate calcium-sodium water with a mineralization of 0.24 g/L

You can discover the traces of antiquity in the Frolikhinsky Republican Game Reserve: there are stone tools, fragments of clay pottery, bones of various animals washed from the coast by the waves on the beach at the Turali Cape. In addition, the so-called “Singing Sands” - dunes which make a raspy sound when you walk on them - are situated a little farther from the coast.

Five in one: the arctic Frolikh char who got into this small lake in an unknown way, this lake being a landscape created by the movement of ancient glaciers, a curative spring with Paleolithic findings and “Singing Sands”. You should definitely visit this place. The way to that place passes through the Ayaya Bay (its name means “beautiful” in Evenki and completely justifies itself).

There is a hydrothermal Frolikhinsky underwater methane-containing spring with a water temperature of 16 °C at the Gulf of Ayaya Bay, at the bottom of the canyon, 2 km away from its eastern shore. Interesting biological features are observed at the spring outlet. Large accumulations of amphipods of the Leptostenus genus which are very rare in other regions of Lake Baikal and the larvae of mosquitoes-midgets of the Sergentia flavodentata species have been found here. Several species and subspecies of animals that were new to scientists have been also described. The area is rich in sponges, chironomids, the bottom fauna of planarias, freshwater shrimps, as well as the fish that feed on the above-mentioned organisms. The first unique freshwater benthic ecosystem based on bacteria was discovered here, its organic matter is produced from the carbon of biogenic methane. The age of this methane is 7-10 thousand years, so hydrothermal outlets of this kind could play an important role in the development of the unique faunal complex of Lake Baikal, serving as a refuge for the species upon the changes of climatic conditions during the long history of the lake.

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powerful spring on the coast of Lake Baikal. It pours out 4 thousand m3 of water with a temperature of 44 °C to the Earth’s surface every day. You can find relict flora and fauna near this spring. Thus, you can find one of the plant ecosystems including heat- and moisture-loving fir-tree plantations with high grass and ferns characteristic of the southern taiga on the slope near the trail.

The North-east of Lake Baikal is a wild territory: you can get there only by water transport. By the way, there is another bay with an analogous name – Aya Bay which is located matchlessly closer to the main transport  centre , Irkutsk. The plateau located close to this bay has a lot of caves with rock paintings with the age of more than two thousand years.

 

Southern Baikal 

Peschanaya and Babushka Bays form a magnificent natural architectural ensemble located to the South of the Aya Bay. The name of “Lukomorye” (“curved seashore”) suits the Bay of Peschanaya perfectly well - it is a perfectly drawn curve with a length of more than a kilometer and a beautiful sandy-gravel beach. It is bounded by the two rocks: Bolshaya Kolokolnya and Malaya Kolokolnya (“Great and the Small Bell Towers”), with their respective height 80 and 60 m above the water edge. One of the first lighthouses at Lake Baikal was installed on the Bolshaya Kolokolnya Rock; there have been a light-keeper’s hut and a weather station with a limnigraph - a device for measuring the water level in Lake Baikal - in the bay for more than half a century. Peschanaya Bay is the warmest section of the Baikal coast and the warmest place in Eastern Siberia. Average annual temperature is above zero degrees Celsius in this place.

Peschanaya Bay is the only place on the coast of Lake Baikal where stilted trees have reached such a large extent of roots exposure. Famous stilted trees, with water and wind constantly washing and blowing away sandy soil from under them, grow on a sandy slope in the northern part of the bay. Mighty pines and larches with their branches curved upwards by the wind rise above the ground on their stilted roots higher than human height.

Peschanaya Bay is adjoined by the Babushka Bay (its name means “Grandmother” in Russian) from the east – the size of the latter is smaller, but it is not less picturesque. The ancient man’s sites have been discovered at Babushka Bay. Deep inside the Bays of Peschanaya and Babushka, on the continental slope, you will find numerous rocks of the most fanciful shapes with expressive names: Dedushka (“Gradnfather”), Vnuchka (“Granddaughter”), Pravnuchka (“Great Granddaughter”), Burkhan, Bogatyr. Cormorants - primordial inhabitants of local rocks - began to return here.

Central Baikal

Islands and sheer cliffs which have become a real refuge from man for many species are scattered throughout Baikal. These are, first of all, Ushkany Islands (a separate article is dedicated to them) - the largest rookery of the Baikal ringed seal. Ringed seals also like to bask in the sun at the Pongonye Cape. The house of the rare herring gull and cormorants is the island of Shargodegan in Maloe More. There is Cape Khoboy at the northern edge of the Olkhon Island – this is the sacred place of shamanists which is also rich in relic plants.

In addition to the above-mentioned attracttions, Baikal still has many places to visit; all of them cannot be listed in one article. Some of these places bear a chance of discovering new species of living organisms and plants; and they are waiting for their discoverers.

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