July 29, 2008

Russian Sub Reaches Bottom Of World’s Deepest Lake

Russian explorers reached the bottom of Lake Baikal in Siberia "” the world's deepest lake "” but said they fell short of breaking the record for the deepest freshwater dive.

The Mir-1 submarine descended 1,580m (5,184ft) and not a record 1,680m as was earlier claimed, organizers said.

The mission is part of a research project led by Artur Chilingarov, a scientist and Kremlin-backed member of parliament, to research and promote conservation of the lake. Lake Baikalwas declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1996.

The team plans to make up to 60 dives in total.

As the mission unfolded live on state television, officials were quick to declare it the world's deepest dive.

"This is a world record," one of the expedition's organizers said.

But when the crew returned hours later, it was later confirmed that they had reached the lake floor at a depth of only 1,580 meters.

"There was no record... We'll try again," expedition leader Artur Chilingarov, a Russian parliamentarian and celebrated Arctic explorer, said after the dive.

Located in Southeast Siberia, Baikal is the world's deepest and oldest lake and is revered in Russia as a national treasure. One of the most unusual animals unique to the lake is the Baikal seal - one of the few seals to spend its life in fresh water.

Formed 25 million years ago and home to 20 percent of the world's unfrozen freshwater, it also hosts some of the world's rarest species of fish and other aquatic life, and lies on significant mineral resources. The expedition collected samples from the seabed.

"The bottom of the lake was very flat," said crewmember Vyacheslav Nagovitsyn, also head of the nearby Russian region of Buryatia, said in televised remarks. "Visibility was excellent when we illuminated it."

In August 2007, Chilingarov also led a team of scientists to the North Pole, where they controversially staked Russia's claim by planting a flag on the seabed.

Image Courtesy Wikipedia