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'Lake Baikal's ability to purify itself is down to an endemic microscopic shrimp called epischura baikalensis'

I'm on the frozen surface of the world's deepest lake - and then there is an earthquake

By 0 and 0 and 0
16 April 2019


As luck would have it, the next morning I came down with a fully fledged flu and struggled to get ready to go.

Before this trip I had never been camping, never slept in a sleeping bag, had no idea how to set a tent and didn’t know how to pack a backpack.

Now I had to pack two of them, both borrowed of my friends, one with the camping clothes and my 4-kilogramme share of food for the group, another one with a camera, thermos, first aid kit and a dry pack with my ID and money for the emergency evacuation if I do decide to quit.

(And to be totally honest with you, yes, this idea did linger in my head in the first couple of days.)

We had the last abundant breakfast with fresh fruit, porridge, butter and eggs and set off.

Having walked for about quarter an hour carrying backpacks and all the gear, it was time to put the skates on.  

Next thing you do is you attach the big backpack to the sledge with a resistance band so that it doesn’t turn over when you skate, and then attach the sledge to your waist with a belt and a rope.

Sakhyurta, our group gets ready to skate. Picture: Olga Gertcyk / The Siberian Times

After about 3 hours of skating with short breaks every 20 minutes we had the first lunch on ice. It consisted of 2 bulky slices of cheese, 4 slices of bread, some chocolates and tea.

I had a bunch of pills and an anti-flu drink when I stopped crying for feeling sorry for myself.

Short break on ice. I might look happy but am nagging inside. Pictures: Olga Gertcyk / The Siberian Times

In one of the short breaks that followed in the afternoon I heard a strange noise.

It resembled thunder and I caught myself thinking: ‘Wow, that is weird, do they have thunderstorms in winter here?’

The rumble was getting stronger, I’ve never been inside a storm cloud but I felt like I was in the heart of one.

Everyone stood up and looked concerned, to put it mild; some looked more concerned than the others.

A few days later, when we got network coverage, it turned out that it was a 4.6 earthquake!

Earthquake in Baikal. Picture: IRIS Earthquake Database / The Siberian Times

Soon after the earthquake we started moving towards the shore.

And the shore was spectacular: there were no trees, just bright orange hills and shiny ice.

And carcasses of two cows frozen in it.

There also were massive footprints around them, of wolves, I believe, and smaller ones, probably, of wolf cubs. 

The bay with dead cows frozen in ice. This is where we had our tent set the first night. Pictures: Olga Gertcyk, Olena Kozachok / The Siberian Times

It was one of the hardest days in the whole trip.

I was falling well behind the group, and just like on our training day we had skated for only 15 kilometres before getting on the shore for the night.

While everyone was helping to set the tent, I was sitting on a rock contemplating life and shivering because of fever.

Our tour leader Olena, or Lena for short, got my sleeping bag ready for me and shared some of the flu medication she had with me.

I fell asleep and woke up to have the most delicious plain pasta I’d had in my life.

Comments (8)

Thanks for your memories and images. Wonderful story and I loved the images. Thanks for transporting me to a place I have read about but not with this perspective before. I wonder if you skate more since your lake trip???
Doc Ren, Houston, TX/USA
05/06/2021 14:36
Great story/diary. My cousin once trekked through Siberia on a frozen river with the North face team. Tough going up there. Good luck and feel better.
Mike, Orlando, Florida-USA
09/05/2019 18:35
Hi everyone and thanks for comments, glad you enjoyed reading it.

Answering to Renee about cows, actually yes, there are herders in those remote places.
Olga Gertcyk, The Siberian Times
18/04/2019 14:38
It may, actually, have been July 2001. Once again, thank you for the picturesc photographs. You are doing a great work.
Gregory James Fox, Samut Prakan Thailand
18/04/2019 08:07
Why were the cows there ~??? Are there herders ~???
Renee, Spokane, WA
18/04/2019 07:49
I looked up 'Siberian News', because I met a man, on a train to Inverness, in July 2004. He claimed to be from Siberia. I have enjoyed visiting your website. Thank you.
Gregory James Fox, Samut Prakan Thailand
17/04/2019 23:17
Story and pictures are lovely, thanks
Choke van der Velde, Cape Town / South Africa
17/04/2019 22:48
Thanks Olga for your account ! You are bringing a new understanding of Siberia and its excitements!
Pete Denton, Newcastle
16/04/2019 21:51

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