Russian Mini Submarines Explore Worlds Deepest Lake Baikal

by OldSailor on July 31, 2008

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Scientists explored the bottom of Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest fresh water lake on July 29 for the first time. This was possible with the help of two Russian Mir-1 and Mir-2 deep-sea vehicles. Russian environmental group ‘Green Patrol’ has confirmed that the exploration do not pose an environmental threat.

During the exploration, the scientists may also find 1600 tons of ‘ Kolchak’s Gold ‘ – the gold stolen by General Kolchak of the Russian Imperial Army during the 1918-1920 Civil War, which sank in the icy lake while transportation.

Here are some interesting features of Lake Baikal.

  • Usually lakes disappear in 10 or 15 thousand years, gradually due to sediments. But Lake Baikal has no signs of ageing, as the lake’s shores expand by two centimeters a year.
  • Lake Baikal’s estimated age is around 25-30 million years.
  • Baikal lies between the Republic of Buryatia, Irkutsk and Chita Regions in Russia’s far east.
  • Baikal is the deepest lake in the world, 1,637 metres deep at the lowest point and contains around 20% of the world’s fresh water.
  • Listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
  • The water is seldom warmer than 15°C (59 °F).
  • Baikal has around 100,000 Nerpa seals,the only seal found in fresh water lake. How these seals reached this lake is still a mystery.
  • In 1977, Soviet scientists in a Pisces submersible reached a depth of 1,410 metres and examined the lake’s bed.

Here are some interesting features of the Lake Baikal exploration:

  • On July 23 and 26, two preliminary dives were made with a depth restriction of 435 metres.
  • Part of scientific research for the Russian Academy of Sciences.
  • The Mir-1 and Mir-2 deep-sea vehicles will perform 60 dives as part of unique research up to mid-September.
  • The crew includes the head of the local administration and the president of investment company Metropol, which has contributed $6 million to the expedition. Also there is Natalia Komarova, the first woman crew member to take part in a Mir mini-sub dive.
  • The expedition is set to run for two years, during which the scientists will conduct around 160 dives in various areas of the lake.
  • Research will include tectonic information-gathering, exploration for archeological artifacts, exploring the unique lake’s ecosystem including its self-regulation processes and traces of oil and gas hydrates.
  • The research team is operating from the lake’s Olkhon Island and will soon be joined by European and American scientists.
  • The maximum depth reached on July 29 dive was 1,592 meters (5,223 feet).
  • On July 30, during the operations due to rough weather, Mir-2′s propeller was damaged and is being rectified.
  • They also will plant a small pyramid bearing the Russian flag in the lake bed.
  • The project under public-private partnership is going on at an estimated cost of $7.5 million.

Here are some interesting features of Mir-1 and Mir-2 deep-sea vehicles:

  • The Mir submersibles, built in 1987 can dive up to 6 km (3.3 miles) with a crew of three on board.
  • The two submersibles were used only in sea water so far and they had to be modified for less dense freshwater.
  • Russia used them to measure radiation levels last year when the Soviet-built K-278 Komsomolets submarine sank in the Norwegian Sea.
  • Also last August, the Mir submersibles descended below the North Pole, with Russians on board planting their country’s flag in a titanium capsule on the Arctic Ocean floor to symbolically claim the seabed.

Here take an amazing photo tour of Lake Baikal through RIA Novosti.

Also here are the photographs of Lake Baikal exploration at RIA Novosti.

Video clips of the Lake Baikal exploration are here, here, here.

More information on Lake Baikal exploration is here at RIA Novosti.

Update: August 06

Russian scientists at Siberia’s Lake Baikal are studying the processes through which the lake’s organisms digest crude oil that seeps from cracks in the bedrock. Read more from RIA Novosti.

Update: August 15

U.S. scientists are expected to explore Lake Baikal on August 20 and 21. Read more from RIA Novosti.

Also the mini-submarines will dive to the bottom of Lake Baikal next week to search for “archaeological artifacts”. Read more from RIA Novosti.

Update: September 12

More than 100 year old sunken ship, was found in the southern part of the lake at the depth of around 30 meters. The vessel’s hull, constructed without iron nails, is 16 m (52 feet) long, 5 m (16 feet) wide and 4 m (13 feet) deep. There is a hole in the right side of the hull and divers believe the ship sank during a storm. Read more from RIA Novosti.

View a video clip from RIA Novosti: The bottom of Baikal – Unique footage from “Mir” mini-submarines

Update: June 12, 2009

Lake Baikal exploration is going to be resumed on June 15. The exploration will focus more on learning the world’s largest freshwater body. Read more from RIA Novosti.

Update: June 15

Lake Baikal exploration with deep-water divers and mini submarines has commenced. View an interesting video clip from Russia Today: Submersibles return to Baikal

Update: June 18

View amazing photographs of Mir-1 and Mir-2 deep-sea submersibles on exploration in the world’s deepest lake, Baikal from RIA Novosti.

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