Lake Baikal in south eastern Siberia is the oldest and deepest lake in the world and its vast size combined with its longevity gives the whole region an almost mystical quality. The Lake is prone to myth and legend and one of the most unusual stories involves a giant creature that has become known as the Lake Baikal Monster.
Lake Baikal is vast and has an average depth of around 744 metres. While it may not be as large in terms of surface area as the Great Lakes of North America, it makes up for around 20% of the earth’s freshwater reserve.
It is teeming with life and contains vast quantities of flora and fauna, around two thirds of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. In short, it’s a perfect location for the legend of the Lake Baikal Monster.
Early Sightings of the Baikal Monster
It’s unclear as to when the monster was first sighted but there have been reports since around 1850 of a giant mammalian beast in the lake.
Descriptions have varied but some who claim to have seen it describe it as a giant sturgeon like cryptid while others say that it is almost seal like in its appearance. However, like many of these legends, most notably the Loch Ness Monster, there have been no confirmed sightings.
As previously mentioned, Lake Baikal is abundant with life and in its waters you will find some incredible species of fish. Included are a wide variety of sturgeon along with some other fascinating species that are unique to the region.
There are huge fish here too and the largest sturgeon ever recorded was landed in Russia and it came in at a massive 27 feet. So is the Lake Baikal Monster nothing more than an abnormally large sturgeon?
Linked to this opinion is the theory that the lake has become so heavily polluted in recent times that it has led to abnormal growth in many of its species.
Since 1966, the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill has poured an alarming amount of untreated waste into Lake Baikal and there are other plants of this kind that are reported to have carried out similar actions. However, there appears to be no real proof that this has led to abnormal growth and this explanation wouldn’t seem to account for the many sightings that pre-date the paper mill’s crime against nature.
Exploring Lake Baikal
In 2008, Artur Chilingarov took a team to Lake Baikal in an attempt to reach the bottom of this vast reserve and to look for new and exciting species. Although it wasn’t specifically mentioned as part of the exercise, Chilingarov would have been hoping to uncover the secret of the Lake Baikal monster.
Sadly, nothing was uncovered and the legend lives on. Is it, as many say, nothing more than an overgrown sturgeon or is it something far more exciting such as a prehistoric relic?
We may never know if the Lake will ever give up its most highly guarded secret.