Baikal is the world's largest freshwater reservoir with the purest water. For a long time, experts have been looking for an answer to the question of how this lake appeared. Legends spread among the local population paint fantastic pictures of the origin of Lake Baikal. However, scientists, based on modern data, find more plausible explanations.
Hypotheses about the origin of Baikal
Members of the expedition of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences were among the first to put forward their explanation of the appearance of Lake Baikal at the end of the 18th century. German researchers Johann Georgi and Peter Pallas, who collaborated with the Academy at the invitation of Catherine II, believed that the lake basin was formed after a tectonic failure of a part of the land, which was caused by a natural cataclysm.
The reason for the failure, Georgi believed, was a powerful earthquake, which could well affect even the course of the flow of local rivers.
A century later, the political exile Jan Chersky, a Pole by birth, put forward his own version of the origin of Lake Baikal. He based on his observations and research, which he made during his travels around the lake. The talented scientist suggested that the basin and the mountains around it arose after the earth's crust was slowly compressed in a horizontal direction.
Since then, many scientists have put forward their own arguments in favor of one or another hypothesis, which often differed only in small details. The closest to the modern scientific understanding of the problem of the formation of Lake Baikal was V.A. Obruchev. In his opinion, Baikal was formed together with the mountain system of Siberia.
Obruchev believed that the depression, which later became a lake, arose after land subsidence along two fracture surfaces that followed in a vertical direction.
Modern view of the problem of the origin of Baikal
Only the scientific achievements of the last century made it possible to advance in the study of the origin of the Baikal basin. When geologists and geophysicists discovered the existence of a global system of faults in the earth's crust, it turned out that the emergence of Lake Baikal became part of the processes taking place on a global scale. The researchers found that several depressions on Earth have a nature similar to Lake Baikal. Examples include Lakes Tanganyika and Nyasa, as well as the Red Sea.
According to scientists, the tectonic processes that led to the formation of the lake began more than 30 million years ago.
The Baikal Basin is considered today the central part of the rift of the same name, that is, a depression formed after a shift in the earth's crust. The rift is more than two thousand kilometers long. The depression is located between two powerful lithospheric plates. At first, geophysicists believed that the lake basin arose as a result of the collision of these plates, but then it was suggested that an increase in the temperature of the mantle located under the Baikal depression was added to their interaction.