Elgygygytgyn lake on the melted ice in Chukotka
Elgygytgyn Lake is a crater lake, formed 3.5 million years ago, the water does not get warmer than 3 Celsius.
There is an amazing lake in Chukotka, Elgygytgyn, surrounded by mountains. The name of the lake means “white lake” or “unfrozen lake”. Considering the harsh climate of the Magadan Region, where the lake is located, the “name” given to the lake is not surprising at all.
Elgygytgyn is only freed from the ice covering the water surface in summer. But even this does not happen every year.
The water in the lake is slightly mineralized, and the average temperature is about 3 degrees Celsius. As a rule, ten months of the year, Lake Elgygytgyn is tightly covered with ice, even in June there are areas of the reservoir, where the ice exceeds the two-meter mark.
With the arrival of warm June, the ice covering the lake begins to melt. Until September, tourists, scientists and fishermen visiting the lake can enjoy the beautiful scenery of the surrounding area and the crystal clear blue cold water, as well as see rare varieties of fish that are not often found in the country’s reservoirs.
Lake Elgygytgyn is a deep-water lake. There are places where the depth reaches 175 meters and the total area of the reservoir is 120 square kilometers.
The origin of the lake is still a mystery, but what is surprising is that its shape is perfectly round. There are a number of versions about this fact. According to one version, the lake was formed by a meteorite fall. There is also an assumption that the lake Elgygytgyn is located in the crater of an ancient volcano.
The water body is located in a secluded place. There are no roads to it and no settlements nearby. Indigenous residents, the closest settlements, who have been to the lake, say that the water in it is incredibly clean and transparent, and a boat sailing on it, as if gliding on a thin glass.
The transparency of the water is impressive. The bottom of the reservoir is clearly visible at a distance of 15 meters, and the fish swim by clearly visible.
What is surprising, contrary to the laws of physics, the lower layers of the water warmer than the upper, and the body of water, despite the low water temperature, a variety of fish, including several rare species of grayling.
Repeated disappearances of people going fishing at the lake confirm the fears of residents of nearby settlements about strange devilry associated with this place.
In Russia Lake Elgygytgyn is shrouded in legends and beliefs. It is said that a huge monster – a fish of gigantic size – lives in it. From time to time, an incomprehensible creature of imposing size noisily bursts to the surface through the water surface, after which it instantly disappears into the deep waters of the lake.
The natives prefer not to go near the lake, believing it to be a dead place and not wanting to cause trouble for themselves and their families.
There is also a belief that a shaman once lived on the lake, who led a secluded life and did not like to be distracted by trifles. His head was made of ice, and he did not like strangers coming to him, and when angry, he could inflict terrible and deadly diseases on those who disturbed him.
Scientists who first got to the lake Elgygytgyn in the early 20th century described it as a strange, creepy place, and at night it is especially terrible, even shivers from the oppressive state of being near it. But this fact does not prevent scientific expeditions to study this body of water for several decades.
Many questions have already been answered, but most of them, to date, remain a mystery.
Elgygytgyn is a unique crater lake beyond the Arctic Circle in the Anadyrsky region of the Chukotka Autonomous Area. It is the most amazing sight of the peninsula. Endemic representatives of flora and fauna were found here, so in 1990 the reservoir received the status of a natural monument of Chukotka, and in 2014 a reserve of regional importance was created around it.
The reservoir is quite distant from the settlements. The nearest town is Pevek, 200 km away, and Anadyr (the administrative center of the district) is 390 km away. There are no permanent settlements on the lake shore and no roads either. The name, which is difficult for the Russian-speaking people, is simply translated from Chukchi as “the white lake”. A couple of decades ago the lake Elgygytgyn was a real mystery. Today, scientists have established the crater origin of the reservoir.
The nature of the Far North, and especially of Elgygytgyn, attracts extreme travelers, lovers of challenging routes and unique fishing. The lake is of serious interest for the world’s scientists as well. The waters of Elgygytgyn never freeze over completely (only 1-2 meters), so the bottom of the lake is a source of unique data about the life and nature of Chukotka over the past 3.5 million years.
Local residents until the early 21st century believed that Elgygygytgyn lake was formed by flooding of a volcano crater. Analysis of rocks showed their volcanic origin as confirmation of the theory. The first mentions of the lake in scientific literature date back to the 1930s. At that time, geologist Sergey Vladimirovich Obruchev wrote about it in his work, although he called it Elgydkhyn.
In the 1950s, the workers of the Anadyr Permafrost Station visited the banks of Elgygygytgyn. They measured the depth and the perimeter, took pictures and sketches of the shoreline, also took water and soil samples. In the 1990s, representatives of the Magadan Research Institute worked here. They performed seismic and radar works and were surprised to find a layer of sediments 200 meters thick at the bottom, several million years old.
In the 2000s, international expeditions were launched here. One of the projects called “Paleoclimate of the Lake Elgygygytgyn” was even funded by the United States and Germany. And although many articles and books were published on the results of their research, there was no reliable answer about the origin of the lake, and speculations and even legends continued to circulate around it.
The disputes about the origin of the lake were settled in 2009, when an international group of scientists (Russia, Germany and the United States) carried out a large-scale study of the lake bed. For this purpose, they installed drilling equipment on the ice and drilled a well. Deeper into the bottom sediments for as much as 225 meters, the scientists found cosmogenic rocks, which could only be formed as a result of collision of the Earth with a meteorite-like object.
Thus, scientists have concluded that the Elgygytgyna basin is a so-called impact crater (astroblem), which was formed in rocks of volcanic origin about 3.5 million years ago as a result of a meteorite impact.
The large-scale explosion created a crater 17 km in diameter, over time the depression was filled with water from underground springs and mountain streams. Thus the lake occupied the center and the southeast of the crater. The uniqueness of the lake lies in the fact that so far it is the only discovered crater reservoir in the world, formed in the rocks of this type.
The nature of the lake Elgygytgyn
The water of the lake is very cold and incredibly transparent. Its color is blue, slowly turning into black. The diameter of the water mirror of Elgygytgyn is 12 km, its area is 119 km and maximum depth is 174 m.
The water is poorly mineralized but well saturated with oxygen, which is beneficial for the aquatic inhabitants. Near the bottom the temperature is kept at an average of +3 ° C, and near the surface – about zero. Therefore, even in August, in calm weather and night frosts, there is an ice film on the surface. As you can see, you will not be able to swim.
Elgygytgyn is the third largest lake of Chukotka AO. It is perfectly round, situated on a plateau, surrounded by low mountains. The shores of the reservoir are sandy and pebble. On the east side of the lake, there is a rock called Pink. The area around the lake is not very rich in vegetation, there are no trees or bushes, only grass. This is not surprising, the period suitable for vegetation here is about 80-100 days a year. Few plants bloom in June. Travelers are delighted with the glades dotted with yellow polar poppies.
Most of the year, the surface of Elgygytgyn is covered with ice, so it is often called the Lake of Melted Ice. The ice starts to break up in early July, and until August you will be able to see fields of melted ice floating around the lake. In late September, the reservoir freezes up again. In particularly cold years, the ice does not have time to melt during the short summer. Winter lasts 10 months a year, during which the temperature ranges from -15 to -39 ° C, the record – minus 61 ° C. But in summer the air can get up to +34 ° C.
Travelers note that to come to the lake you need to be in good health. For example, the weather in the area is very unstable. In summer, the temperature and atmospheric pressure varies repeatedly throughout the day.
The inhabitants of the lake
Millions of years ago, when Europe and America were covered with ice, there were no glaciers on the territory of today’s Chukotka. That’s why the lake preserved its unique ecosystem, which was not disturbed and continued to develop for 3.5 million years. The lake can become a source of knowledge about climate change on the planet, not only in the past, but also in the future. Researchers compare Elgygytgyn with Baikal and even with the Greenland glaciers.
The lake is inhabited by foxes, wolves, and bears. Because of the abundance of predatory animals, travelers take firearms with them on the road for protection. Locals often see a blue fox and a black squirrel. During the migration period, huge herds of deer numbering 150-170,000 may pass by the reservoir. Very unusual birds can be seen near the lake: horned lark, Canada crane, black-throated crane, khrustan. On the rocks of the southern shore you can find nests of the Gyrfalcon, included in the Red Book of Russia.
Fishing at the lake
Lake Elgygytgyn is inhabited by amazing fish called loaches (palia):
- Boganid palya – a large predator (up to 15 kg), which lives in very deep water, but in warm weather comes to the surface to warm up. It is also found in the lakes of the Taimyr.
- In 1990s, two more species were discovered and described in the lake: Smallmouth Halia (Salvelinus elgyticus) and Longfin Halia (Salvethymus svetovidovi). These are endemic fish species: they do not occur anywhere else on the planet. They feed on plankton and live at great depths (70-100 m), but may come ashore at night. They live long enough, about 30 years.
These fish have surprisingly adapted to live in very cold dark water and have inhabited the reservoir since the time of mammoths. Little is yet known about the other inhabitants of the waters. During the short summer, grayling, chum salmon and whitefish enter the waters of the Enmyvaam River. But these species cannot live here permanently because the temperature is too low. Of course, the place attracts fishing enthusiasts, and special tours are organized for them.
The Legend of Lake Elgygytgyn
Chukchi legends say that in the lake lives a monster named Kalilgu, which is larger than even the Loch Ness. It is because of the monster that people are disappearing here, and the place has become desolate and dead. Even some media claim that it is a relict lizard or dinosaur that has survived to this day.
Locals also often tell of strange mirages appearing over the lake and that fish are sometimes caught here, one vertebra larger than a grown man. And people interested in esoterics call Elgygytgyn a place of power and even the Eye of the Earth.
Of course, scientists treat the fairy tales with a smile. Although one of them even managed to explain. Methane gas may accumulate at the bottom of the lake, and sometimes it comes to the surface, creating quite a powerful splash on the water. This, researchers suggest, indigenous people may have once mistaken for the movements of the lake monster Kalilga.
How to get there
To come to Chukotka is not easy. First of all, you need to clarify all the formalities related to the legitimacy of your stay in a particular locality. Chukotka Autonomous Okrug is a border zone. Therefore, to visit some territories, even the citizens of Russia need a special permit, even more foreigners. For Russian citizens a business trip voucher or a special tour issued by the operator, registered in Chukotka Autonomous District, will be the pass.
On the expanses of the Internet you can find a number of proposals and buy an organized tour around Chukotka. Elgygytgyn will be one of the points of the route or its final destination. The duration of trips and their format is completely different: rafting on the river, a trip on all-terrain vehicles or hiking.
The motorist will have to travel to Chukotka from the capital of Russia for more than 9 days, so it is better to choose air travel. A ticket will cost 30-50 thousand rubles one way. You can fly to Bilibino, Pevek or Anadyr.
- Flights from Moscow to Pevek are available twice a week. Further travel in Chukotka is connected with helicopters, it is convenient to get to the lake. Most often it is from Pevek that hikes and organized tours start.
- There are flights from Magadan to Bilibino a couple of times a week. From here you can go to the lake, but transport connections with other settlements of AO are poorly developed.
- It is easiest to fly to Anadyr. From Moscow there are 4 flights per week in summer and 2 in winter. If you fly here, consider your route to Elgygytgyn, because the distance is 390 km.
Once you are in one of the settlements, an independent traveler will face the problem of finding a guide, a vehicle and a weapon for a long hike to Elgygytgyn lake.