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'Lake Baikal is truly astonishing. One of the most ancient geographical features on Earth, it is estimated to be 30 million years old'

Beauty of frozen methane bubbles on the world’s deepest lake shown in stunning video

By 0 and 0 and 0
24 November 2020


Bubbles of frozen methane seen through crystal clear ice of lake Baikal. Picture by Stanislav Tolstnev

A tranquil video of white and silver bubbles of methane caught in newly-formed ice was filmed at Maloye More, a strait that separates the lake’s largest island of Olkhon from the western shore of Lake Baikal.

‘Ice covering the shallow straits and bays begins to form by the end of November, while the rest of Baikal freezes by the middle of January.

'This kind of ice, the purest, can only be seen in some areas of the lake in November and December’, said Stanislav Tolstev, 46, photographer and tour guide from Irkutsk. 

‘The first time I paid attention to these bubbles was about four years ago, then I learned to distinguish methane from air bubbles. 

‘Methane bubbles freeze in layers one over the other, and the floors of them can grow 1.5 metres (5ft) deep. 

‘Local anglers say that other, smaller and more chaotic, bubbles are ‘the breathing of Baikal seals’ and point to the areas where these animals rise to the surface to take some air’. 

Beauty of frozen methane bubbles on the world’s deepest lake shown in stunning video

Beauty of frozen methane bubbles on the world’s deepest lake shown in stunning video

Bubbles of frozen methane seen through crystal clear ice of lake Baikal. Pictures and video by Stanislav Tolstnev

Baikal is located in a rift zone which is a deep - in fact the largest on the planet - crack in the Earth’s crust which narrows at depths of several dozen kilometres. 

It does not have a solid bottom: instead there is a cushion of bottom sediments that has been filling the most narrow lower part of the crack for millions of years

These bottom sediments are similar to bogs in that they contain a lot of gas, including methane. 

In deep winter, there are roads over the ice, but the larger methane bubbles pose a threat. 

‘There are areas of the lake where bubbles grow so big that cars fall through the ice,’ he said.

‘The location may vary from year to year, and usually the large bubbles appear starting from February and can be seen through March and April.’
Air bubbles pictured at Lake Baikal. Picture: Stanislav Tolstnev

Scientists monitor methane rising from the floor of Baikal, and while it is said to be increasing, they have disputed this is due to global warming.

Dr Nikolay Granin, from the Limnological Institute, Irkutsk, previously said: ‘There are deepwater seeps - at a depth of more than 380 metres (1,247ft) - and shallow seeps, at a depth less than 380 metres.

‘Currently, we have information about 22-24 deepwater seeps and more than 100 shallow seeps.’

The temperature at the bottom of the lake - the deepest in the world, with a maximum depth of 1,642 metres (5,387ft) - has not warmed, he said. 

‘There is a lot of speculation about this. We believe that warming does not affect the seeps, as the bottom temperature practically doesn't change.’

Yet the lake's level has fallen, and this leads to increased methane seeps, he said. 

The quantity of methane hidden in gas hydrates in Baikal is estimated at one trillion cubic metres.

Beauty of frozen methane bubbles on the world’s deepest lake shown in stunning video

Beauty of frozen methane bubbles on the world’s deepest lake shown in stunning video

Beauty of frozen methane bubbles on the world’s deepest lake shown in stunning video

Lake Baikal and photographer Stanislav Tolstnev,46

The Siberian Times thanks photographer Stanislav Tolstnev for sharing the video and the pictures.

Please see more pictures from lake Baikal on his Instagram account

Comments (13)

Beautiful and surreal. Photographs of a truly amazing phenomenon. Beauty resides in all aspects of nature, including the concerning. Well done Stanislav.
Eduard Domin, Adelaide South Australia
15/02/2021 04:57
Methane + Bacteria = making rocks. Check gulf of Cadiz mud volcanos. Lost methane gas underground storage due to bacteria a big financial problem. Methane does come down with rain and get absorbed by earth compost layer.

Studying methane earth washing recycling process from geological to financial arts are reelevating. Your article just made a beautiful shine and great pictures. Thanks.
Choke, Cape Town
31/01/2021 01:19
Fantastic images of the methane bubbles, the video is beautifully made. What a true gem of Siberia.
Marina, London
08/01/2021 01:12
very nice. Great
jayakrishnan K V, India
02/01/2021 04:54
Bajkał jest piękny . Jest dziedzictwem przyrody. Pragnę tam pojechać.
Leon P, Polska
01/01/2021 17:40
Amazing nature
achillles, Greece
17/12/2020 03:53
Wow! Amazing pictures and very informative article about the structure of the bottom of this amazing Lake. Lake Baikal never ceases to amaze with its beauty, uniqueness and its science.

Thank you ST for another great article about Russia's beautifully diverse Siberian wilderness. From the Kara Sea to Kamchatka, you regularly provide amazing, informative insights on the world's largest - but largely ignored by western media (especially the pathetic, myopic US media) - wilderness.
Chad Hammond, United States
13/12/2020 19:34
As beautiful as these photos show, methane is deadly for the climate. The amount of methane being leaked into the atmosphere needs to be measured to be included in the climate impacts.
03/12/2020 22:14
Thank you Siberian Times for another captivating and extremely informative article. It's fascinating material.

The incredibly beautiful captions of the ocean stalagmite formations are of a rare, but frightening natural phenomena...Thank you Mr Tolstnev for sharing this authentic winter wonderland in Lake Baikal!
Anonymous, Switzerland
02/12/2020 22:12
Tell me; if you took one of those bubble plates and put it on the ground and put a flame to it, would it catch on fire? Fire on ice?
Edward Jennings, Prescott Valley, Arizona, US
30/11/2020 06:20
Beautiful Baikal, I live on the western shore of Lake Superior, the next largest fresh water lake after Baikal. Baikal is so unique, so ancient. Lake Superior is a baby compared to Baikal.
BRUCE RIPLEY, United States
28/11/2020 02:48
Beautiful and scary.
Stephen Kastl , Raleigh, USA
27/11/2020 08:20
Modern Art...congratulation !
Jocelyne, FRANCE
26/11/2020 02:38

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