The sparkling ice hummocks of the world’s biggest lake


Philippe Bourseiller/Getty Images Reportage

IT IS the world’s biggest and oldest lake, dubbed the Galapagos of Russia thanks to the thousands of species found nowhere else on the planet. And right now, it is starting to freeze.

Lake Baikal is 25 million years old and sits in a rift valley bigger than Belgium. It freezes over for five months of the year. In March, when Siberian winds howl across the surface, temperature and pressure differences in the ice cause cracks to form, and great transparent slabs like these stick out above the surface. The ice slabs and hummocks are renowned for being among the world’s most beautiful. They are blue because air bubbles have been squeezed out by the high pressures the ice is formed under. Ice cubes in a gin and tonic are white because they contain lots of tiny bubbles.

Proclaimed a UNESCO world heritage site in 1996,

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New Scientist – Earth

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