How far do they go?


Popular mechanics; Courtesy of Peerasit Chockmaneenuch

When we think of impressive bodies of water, we usually think of oceans. But the world is also full of truly spectacular lakes, some of which really the deepest.

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Lake Baikal in Siberia plunges over 5,000 feet and Lake Tanganyika in Africa is nearly as deep. In South America’s Patagonia region, glacial lakes dot the landscape – their brilliant, milky hues belying the extreme depths hidden beneath their surface. North America has its own share of gaping lakes. Only 30 years ago, scientists finally explored the bottom of Oregon’s Crater Lake, surprised to find creatures that had evolved to tolerate pressure at 2,000 feet. Lake Tahoe is so massive that it produces its own microclimate.

Here is a list of the 20 deepest lakes on the planet. One is buried under the ice, the other has its own mythos of Atlantis, and the other might explode one day, but they’re all pretty awesome. Let’s dive into it.

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    Lake Baikal (5,387 feet)

    Lake Baikal in Siberia is the deepest lake in the world, as well as the largest body of fresh water on the planet, containing more fresh water than the five Great Lakes of North America combined. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lake Baikal is a fault lake, meaning it formed where two continental plates separated. Baikal is home to thousands of animal and plant species, including the Baikal seal, an earless seal and the only one to live exclusively in fresh water.

    We think Lake Baikal is so badass that we even made a TikTok about it.


    Lake Tanganyika (4,823 feet)

    Shared between Tanzania, Burundi, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lake Tanganyika is one of Africa’s Great Lakes, a series of rift lakes in the east of the continent. Tanganyika is home to an impressive number of endemic fish species and provides food for over 10 million people who inhabit the region.


    Caspian Sea (3,363 feet)

    Fun fact: the Caspian Sea is actually a lake, and the third deepest in the world. Bordered by Iran, Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, the Caspian Sea is the largest closed body of water on Earth and is home to many endemic species, such as the Caspian tern, Caspian turtle and the Caspian seal. But perhaps the sea’s most remarkable creature is the beluga sturgeon, a massive, bony fish that can measure up to 24 feet and weigh up to 3,500 pounds.

    The Caspian Sea is fed by the Volga, the longest in Europe. As runoff and pollution in the river proliferated, the health of the lake suffered.


    Lake Vostok (3,300 feet)

    Located in Antarctica, Lake Vostok is the only lake on this list that is buried under more than two miles of ice. The largest known subglacial lake in the world, scientists were only able to confirm the existence of Vostok in 1996, using ice-penetrating radar. In the years that followed, researchers eventually drilled to the surface of the lake to collect water samples and found that it contained a variety of microscopic life.


    Lake Viedma (3,000 feet)

    It wasn’t until earlier this summer that scientists were finally able to measure the deepest part of Lake Viedma, which sits on the border of Chile and Argentina. The lake is named after Spanish explorer Antonio de Viedma, the first European to see it in 1783.


    O’Higgins / Lake San Martin (2,742 feet)

    Argentina and Chile share this lake, although each country refers to it by a different nickname. Both sides, however, are named after this country’s liberation heroes. This lake is shaped like an eight-armed spider and is known for its milky blue hue, which it gets from the high concentration of rock flour – small particles of sediment – ​​suspended in its waters.


    Lake Malawi (2,316 feet)

    Another large African lake, Lake Malawi belongs to Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. Malawi is a meromictic lake, meaning it has layers that never mix, creating bands of water with distinct salinity, temperature and oxygen levels. Thanks to these radically different ecosystems, Lake Malawi is home to an impressive number of fish species – more than 15% of all freshwater fish on Earth call it home.

    Located in the Tien Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan, Lake Ysyk is locally known as Issyk-Kul, which means “hot lake”, because despite its high altitude, it never freezes. Lake Ysyk was an important stop on the Silk Road, and the remains of medieval settlements have been discovered when water levels are low. Ysyk’s colorful history and incredible depth have inspired the expeditions of many treasure hunters, all hoping to find the “Kyrgyz Atlantic”, mythical ruins that are rumored to lie in the deepest part of the lake. .


    Great Slave Lake (2,015 feet)

    Named after Indigenous peoples, sometimes referred to as Slaves, Canada’s Great Slave Lake runs along the shores of Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories. During the region’s long, cold winters, Great Slave Lake freezes over and becomes an ice road, connecting communities normally separated by water. However, climate change led to an early and unpredictable thaw, creating dangerous conditions for motorists.


    Crater Lake (1,949 feet)

    Oregon’s Crater Lake was formed 7,500 years ago after a volcanic explosion created a 0.7 mile deep caldera. Today, Crater Lake is a national park and popular with visitors for its remarkably clear water, the result of the rain and snow that fed into the lake. In the late 1980s, researchers explored the depths of Crater Lake with a one-man submarine, discovering worms, insects and crustaceans that evolved to tolerate extreme pressure 2,000 feet below the surface. .


    Matano Lake (1,936 feet)

    Lake Matano is the deepest lake in Indonesia and the 11th deepest lake in the world. Located on the island of Sulawesi, Matano is the highest lake in a chain of lakes known as the Malili system. Due to its isolation from other lakes, Matano is home to endemic fish and plants that have evolved like nowhere else on the planet. For example, of the 30 types of fish in the lake, scientists believe they all evolved from a common ancestor.


    General Carrera Lake / Buenos Aires Lake (1,923 ft)

    Another lake in Patagonia shared by Argentina and Chile, the name you give to this body of water will depend on which side of the border you are on. The natives of the region called Lake Chelenko, which means “turbulent waters”. For outdoor enthusiasts, it is well known as a premier sport fishing destination, ideal for trout and salmon.


    Hornindalsvatnet (1,686 feet)

    Located in Norway, Hornindalsvatnet is the deepest lake in Europe and one of the clearest too. Local legend has long claimed that a sea monster lives undetected in the deepest part of the lake; in 2012, three men claimed to have finally produced photographic evidence of the cryptid. Skeptics, however, dismissed the image as a fake, saying the image actually showed some floating logs.


    Quesnel Lake (1,677 feet)

    The deepest lake in British Columbia (and the deepest freshwater fjord in the world), Lake Quesnel is located in an area of ​​the province known as the Cariboo region. Popular with anglers for the huge trout and salmon that swim in its frigid waters, Quesnel’s water quality was badly affected in 2014 by the largest dumping of mining waste into a lake on record.


    Lake Toba (1,657 feet)

    Lake Toba in Indonesia occupies the caldera of a super volcano, a volcano characterized by supersonic explosions that can cause tsunamis and alter the climate. The lake is home to Samosir Island, the largest island in the world, home to over 100,000 people.


    Sarez Lake (1,657 feet)

    The 16th deepest lake in the world, Lake Sarez in Tajikistan, is only a century old. In 1911, an earthquake caused a 3.1 mile landslide to block the Murghab River, creating the 1,600 foot deep lake. The earthen dam became known as the Usoi Dam, and since then its stability has been a source of great consternation. Some scientists believe that if the Usoi were to fail in another earthquake, it would cause catastrophic flooding for the five million people downstream. However, Usoi Dam survived a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in 2015 with no visible signs of damage.


    Lake Tahoe (1,645 feet)

    A major tourist attraction in Nevada and California, Lake Tahoe hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics. The lake is so large and deep that it is believed to have its own microclimate, experiencing more snowfall than the surrounding regions. In fact, it snowed every month of the year in the area immediately around Lake Tahoe.


    Argentino Lake (1640 feet)

    Argentina’s Lake Argentino is in Los Glaciares National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has an opaque green color thanks to the abundance of lime in melting glaciers. Argentino is also the meeting place of three gigantic glaciers, the Perito Moreno, Onelli and Upsala glaciers. The three glaciers are constantly dumping giant icebergs into Lake Argentino, where they drift until they melt.


    Salvatnet (1,581 feet)

    Another Norwegian lake, Salvatnet is on the west coast of the country, close to the Atlantic Ocean. Scientists believe that the lake was connected to the ocean until around 3,000 years ago and that an ancient layer of salt water at the bottom of Salvatnet is an artifact of that time. Another meromictic lake, the layers of Salvatnet never mix.


    Lake Kivu (1,575 feet)

    Lake Kivu is a large African lake that straddles the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. A freshwater lake, the Kivu is one of three lakes in the world known to experience limnic eruptions, a natural disaster in which dissolved carbon dioxide erupts from the depths, creating a large cloud of gas that can suffocate people and animals. Because more than two million people live near Lake Kivu, scientists are developing ways to degas the water and thus reduce the risk of disaster.

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