Baikal: Sacred Sea of Siberia

Overview

In Baikal, Peter Matthiessen takes readers on a fascinating journey to ancient Lake Baikal in Siberia. The world's oldest and deepest lake, Baikal is a natural wonder: more than a mile deep, it contains one-fifth of the fresh water on Earth; its waters possess a clarity and purity beyond compare - a coin dropped into the water can be clearly seen at a depth of 100 feet; at the bottom of the lake are hydrothermal vents that support unique forms of life, among which is the reclusive nerpa, the world's only ...
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Overview

In Baikal, Peter Matthiessen takes readers on a fascinating journey to ancient Lake Baikal in Siberia. The world's oldest and deepest lake, Baikal is a natural wonder: more than a mile deep, it contains one-fifth of the fresh water on Earth; its waters possess a clarity and purity beyond compare - a coin dropped into the water can be clearly seen at a depth of 100 feet; at the bottom of the lake are hydrothermal vents that support unique forms of life, among which is the reclusive nerpa, the world's only freshwater seal. But this legendary lake - revered throughout Russia - is now endangered by acid rain and pollution from industries on the lake shore. In the summer of 1990, Matthiessen was invited by musician-composer Paul Winter to join him on an expedition to explore the mysterious Baikal. Winter, whose visits to the lake over several years had inspired him to compose music celebrating the wonder of Baikal, hoped that Matthiessen would be so impressed by the lake's majesty - and so concerned by the loss of its biodiversity - that he would write on its behalf. Here, then, is the journal Matthiessen composed during their voyage from end to end of the great lake, accompanied by a fascinating group of Russian naturalists and intellectuals, including the controversial writer Valentin Rasputin, who has made Baikal one of the centerpieces of the emerging Russian environmental movement. Matthiessen's powerful tribute to this sacred and endangered landscape is enhanced by myths, folklore, and excerpts from historical texts about Baikal assembled by editor Chez Liley. Boyd Norton's striking photographs illustrate the lake's grandeur - from dawn light on the rugged peaks above the Brown Bear Coast to nerpa basking on rocks at Tonkii Island in Zabaikalsky National Park. A foreword by Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko introduces the book, and renowned environmentalist David Brower's afterword calls for the designation of Lake Baikal as a World Heritage Site.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Until recently Siberia's Lake Baikal, the world's oldest and deepest lake, remained nearly pristine because of its great depth. The construction of a cellulose plant on its southern shore and the advent of other sources of industrial and agricultural pollution, however, seriously threaten the ecological balance of the lake, which contains about one-fifth of all the fresh water on the earth. In the summer of 1990, National Book Award winner Matthiessen ( The Snow Leopard ), composer Paul Winter and a group of Russian environmentalists traveled around Baikal, which had previously been off limits to foreigners as well as to most citizens of the former Soviet Union. During the journey, Matthiessen kept a journal describing the lake, its flora and fauna and the people who live on its shores. Together, the brief text and 50 of Norton's spectacular color photographs make an eloquent plea for the preservation of one of the earth's great natural treasures; the foreword by poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, who was born in Siberia, is especially moving. The Sierra Club will donate a share of the book's proceeds to Baikal Watch, a nonprofit group dedicated to the preservation of Lake Baikal. (Oct.)
Library Journal
The largest, deepest, and oldest freshwater lake in the world is also unique in much of its ecosystem. Long a spiritual center for the natives of Siberia and Mongolia, Baikal has recently become a focus for an emerging Soviet conservation movement. Noted author and traveler Matthiessen ( Far Tortuga , LJ 4/15/75) visited Baikal in August 1990 and kept a journal from which this work evolved. Enriched by color photos on nearly half the pages, plus numerous historical sidebars, this short work calls for the environmental defense of a treasure already damaged by industrial pollution. Baikal's condition is generating attention in the world's popular as well as scientific periodical literature, but this is the first English-language book to consider its plight. Recommended for public and academic libraries with an interest in international environmental issues.-- Roland Person, Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale
Booknews
Siberia's Lake Baikal is the oldest, deepest, and largest freshwater lake in the world. In the summer of 1990, the illustrious Matthiessen (The Snow Leopard, At Play in the Fields of the Lord, Far Tortuga) visited Baikal and composed the journal that forms the heart of this book--accompanied by nature photographer Boyd Norton's striking color photographs, as well as excerpts on the history and biology of Baikal and translations of Buryat myths and folklore which celebrate the lake. Foreword by Yevgeny Yevtushenko. 9.5x8.75". Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780871563583
  • Publisher: Sierra Club Books
  • Publication date: 5/1/1995
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Product dimensions: 9.13 (w) x 8.07 (h) x 0.45 (d)

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