Research of the Baikal

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The Russians came to Baikal in the summer of 1643, headed by a Tobolsk Cossack, Kurbat Ivanov, who had gathered 75 'hunting, serving and idling people' and came out to the lake at the Maloye (Small) Sea region. Kurban's guide was Mozheui, a Tungus prince. As Mozheui said, in 1640 'the Russian people - Cossacks - roamed on Lama (on Baikal), and from whence those Cossacks had come and since when they'd been roaming on Lama, no one had any idea.... ' Kurbat Ivanov, 'with his mates drew a plan of Baikal, and of silty lakes, and of rivers falling into Baikal... and on Baikal where a fortress could be built'.


In 1646, down the Yenisei and Angara Rivers from Yenisei Fortress, ataman Kolesnikov came with a Cossack detachment to Baikal 'in order to survey silver ores, whatever the site.' The ataman and his Cossacks reached the Upper Angara River, where he founded the Upper Angara Fortress in 1646, and a year later Baikal saw the appearance of Ivan Pokhabov with his men-at-arms who came to search for silver lodes; following him there came another detachment with a boyar son, Ivan Galkin, who placed the Barguzin Fortress on Baikal in 1648. Galkin managed to levy a tribute on the people living on the shore and investigated the areas near Baikal, but failed to trace any gold and silver lodes.

In 1655-1656 Awakum Petrov, a 'violent' archpriest travelled over Baikal to his exile in the Dauria Territory. The nature of Siberia, the environs of Baikal and the lake itself surprised and astonished Awakum's inquisitive nature. In his Life the archpriest wrote: 'Round about it, the mountains are high, the rocks are stony, and of pretty height, - fifteen thousands miles and more to have dragged on, and never to have seen such anywhere. Atop of these are halls and stoves, gates and pillars, fences of stone, and yards, - and all these are God-made. The onion comes growing on these, as well as the garlic - the bulbs are ever more sized then the Romanov's ones, and are pretty sweet, too. And the hemp also grows there, the God-grown ones, and in the yard the grasses are of red tint, - and colourful and fragrant abundantly. Birds are numerous, geese and swans, - on the sea, like snow - are swimming. The fish in it -sturgeons and taimens, sterlets and omuls, and sigs, and other species are many. The water is fresh, and the nerpas and seals are great in it: never have I seen such in the ocean-sea in Mezen when I used to live there. And the fish are rather plentiful: the sturgeons and taimens are pretty much fat, - you can't have them fried on the pan: the fat is all the way around'.

This was the first such vivid literary description of Baikal.

svi14.jpg (68138 bytes)Interesting information about Baikal was left by Nikolai G. Spafarii, an ambassador of the Tsar Aleksey Mikhailovich to the oriental countries (1675-1678), and in 1701 a book of drawings of Baikal appeared, compiled by Semen Remezov, which featured the Siberia of the seventeenth century as completely as was possible at that time. On the drawing "The Baikal Sea" the shapes of Baikal almost matched the real ones, and 40 tributaries were marked, as well as day travels and distances for day travels by sail. Remezov never visited Baikal himself, so he collected the information about the lake from military class's narrative stories.

The Russian estates in Siberia, spacious by that time, required their own explorations. At that period the first scientific expeditions were equipped and sent to Siberia and, especially, to Baikal.

Under personal order of Peter I, academician Daniil Gotlieb Messerschmidt worked for 10 years (1719-1729) in Siberia. He visited Baikal, compiled a map of the lake, wrote detailed descriptions of Baikal, and told about hot springs on its northwestern shore.

?? intensive exploration of Baikal began from the establishment of the Russian Academy of Sciences (1725). The Second Kamchatka Expedition on Baikal involved the teams of I. Gmelin (1735-1737), P. Pallas (1771-1772), and I. Georgi. Their investigations greatly expanded the information about Baikal. Descriptions were given to new species of organisms: the golomyanka, the sponge, the omul, the nerpa, etc. A detailed description of a voyage almost almost completely around Baikal was given by I. Georgi, who expressed an opinion that the lake had come into existence in a 'forcible' way; he didn't exclude the possibility of a grandiose earthquake which had formed a gap at the bedrock of the Upper Angara River. On a commission from P. Pallas, A. Pushkarev, a navigation officer of the expedition, made the first topographic survey of Baikal and drew its map.

P. Pallas also tried to explain the causes of formation of the Baikal hollow. He believed that the Baikal hollow represented a huge crevice that had separated the mountains and then had been filled with water. Pallas noted that the coastal mountains bore the traces of very strong and rather recent alterations and the signs of deep antiquity, as well.

After the expedition, equipped by the Siberian Department of the Russian Geographic Society (1855-1857), Gustav Radde, a naturalist, came to the incorrect conclusion that Baikal was exceptionally poor in invertebrate animals. This viewpoint of the recognized scientist slowed down further studies of the lake's fauna for a long time.

The next investigation period, associated with the names of the participants of the Polish rebellion B. Dybovsky, V. Godlevsky, I. Chersky, A. Chekanovsky, and others exiled to Siberia, was extremely intensive. It was B. Dybovsky who had the honour to be one of the founders of the scientific baikalology - he discovered the unusual versatility and originality of the Baikal's fauna.

After 1877, I. Chersky (Yan Dominiko) carried out systematic geological investigations of the Baikal shores during four years. His enormous labor resulted in an original concept of the geological history of the Baikal Territory and Baikal itself. I. Chersky underlined the major role of slow gradual alterations connected with compression and deepening of the narrow lineal folds. He completed a geological map of the Baikal coastline.

In 1888 Siberia was visited by V. Obruchev, the first and, for quite a while, the only regular mining engineer of Siberia. In contrast to I. Chersky, V. Obruchev came to consider that such a hollow could have been formed only as a result of motion of the earth's crustal blocks along the fractures of the comparatively recent period; otherwise its steep slopes would have been smoothed by wash-outs, and the lake would have been filled up with its products. V. Obruchev's viewpoint of the Baikal's fault origin was supported by A. Lvov (1904), M. Tetyaev (1945), and other scientists.

At the same time there was a zoological expedition working on Baikal, under the guidence of A. Korotnev, a professor of Kiev University, while A. Voznesensky and V. Shostakovich were busy compiling the first substantial essays on climatic features of Baikal, its thermals, water transparency, and ice cover, and establishing the meteorological networks on the lake's shores and on Oikhon island.

In 1916, under the Presidium of the Russian Academy, on the initiative of N. Nasonov's, an academician, the Baikal Commission was formed for the comprehensive studies of Baikal. The Commission organised an expedition of the Russian Academy of Sciences, headed by V. Dorogostaisky, and that same year it arrived in Baikal to select the site for the residential station. The choice fell upon Bolshiye Koty Valley, 18 kilometres from Listvyanka. The revolutionary events and the subsequent Civil War broke off the work the expedition had started. In 1918, the station was transferred to the Irkutsk University, never to be reclaimed by the Academy of Sciences. 

In 1925, under G. Vereshchagin's guidence, a Stationary Expedition (USSR AS) was formed, which settled on the southeastern shore of Baikal, in Marituy Station.

In 1928 the Baikal Expedition was transformed into the Baikal Limnological Station. The activities ranged widely, with research involving the whole Baikal and its coastlines. The studies resulted in identifying the regularities of temperature distributions at all depths, obtaining information about the bottom relief at great depths, compiling the first data of the chemical regime, and describing numerous new species of organisms that inhabit Baikal. All these activities were supervised by indefatigable Gleb Yuryevich Vereshchagin - one of the most prominent limnologists, a world-famous scientist.

Alongside him, highly fruitful efforts were made by D. Taliyev, A. Bazikalova, and by the great scientists V. Sukachev, ?. ?????, N. Gayevskaya, A. Svetovidov, S. Kuznetsov, ?. Forsh-Menshutkina, ?. Forsh, L. Rossolimo, and many others.

During war times, the Baikal limnological station worked on the problems of Angara power construction projects, continued to probe the origin and history of the Baikal hollow development, studied the wind and wave regimes, exploited the Baikal's fish resources, etc. Later, the station welcomed the activities of those who contributed significantly to science, like G. Galazy, academician, K. Votintsev, hydrochemist, V. Sokolnikov and A. Afanasyev, hydrologists, L. Tyulina, botanist, M. Bekman and G. Mazepova, hydrobiologists, N. Dumitrashko and V. Lamakin, geomorphologists, and others.

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At the same time, at the Baikal station of the Biological and Geographical Research Institute (now the Biological Research Institute of the Irkutsk State University) M. Kozhova supervised hydrobiological researches. Among the baikalologists of the 20th century, the name of Mikhail Mikhailovich Kozhov undoubtedly ranks in the first echelon. The scientist's interests incorporated almost the total complex of intricate biological phenomena, and his monograph Biology of Lake Baikal gives a rather complete and bright picture of life in the watery depths of the unique lake. He and his colleagues left many valuable recommendations on fishery management in Baikal and protection and rational use of natural resources of its basin.

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