How far do they go?

Popular Mechanics | Courtesy of Peerasit Chockmaneenuch

When we think of amazing bodies of water, we usually think of oceans. But the world is also full of really wonderful lakes, including some lakes truly deep.

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Lake Baikal in Siberia sinks more than 5,000 feet, and Lake Tanganyika in Africa is about the same depth. In the Patagonian region of South America, glacial lakes dot the landscape – their milky bright colors intertwine with the extreme depths hidden beneath their surface. North America has its own share of yawning lakes. Just 30 years ago, scientists finally discovered the bottom of Crater Lake in Oregon, surprised to find creatures that had evolved to withstand pressure at 2,000 feet. Lake Tahoe is so huge that it produces its own microclimate.

Below is a list of the 20 deepest lakes on the planet. One is buried under the ice, the other has its own Atlantis legend, and the other one might explode one day – but they’re all pretty amazing. Let’s dive in.

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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 freshwater lake on the planet, and contains more fresh water than all the five Great Lakes of North America combined. Lake Baikal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a rift lake, which means that it formed where two continental plates separated. Baikal is home to thousands of species of animals and plants, including the Baikal seal, which is an earless seal and the only one that lives exclusively in freshwater.

    We think Lake Baikal is so badass, we even created TikTok about it.


    Lake Tanganyika (4,823 ft)

    Lake Tanganyika, shared by Tanzania, Burundi, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is one of Africa’s Great Lakes, a series of rift lakes on the eastern side of the continent. Tanganyika is home to an astonishing number of endemic fish species and provides food for the more than 10 million people who call the area home.

    Caspian Sea (3,363 feet)

    Fun fact: The Caspian Sea is actually a lake, and the third deepest lake in the world at the time. The Caspian Sea, which is bordered by Iran, Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth and is home to many endemic species, such as the Caspian tern, Caspian sea turtle, and the Caspian seal. But perhaps the most well-known sea creature is the beluga sturgeon, a huge bony fish that can grow up to 24 feet in length and weigh up to 3,500 pounds.

    The Caspian Sea is fed by the Volga, the longest in Europe. As runoff and pollution spread into the river, the health of the lake was damaged.


    Lake Vostok (3,300 feet)

    Located in Antarctica, Lake Vostok is the only lake on this list 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 finally dug all the way down to the lake’s surface to collect samples of the water – and found it contained a variety of microscopic life.

    Lake Vidma (3,000 feet)

    Only earlier this summer were scientists finally able to measure the deepest part of Lake Viedma, which lies on the border of Chile and Argentina. The lake is named after the Spanish explorer Antonio de Viedma, the first European to see it in 1783.

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

    Argentina and Chile share this lake, although each country refers to it by a different name. However, both sides are named after the liberation heroes of that country. This lake is shaped like a spider with eight arms and is famous for its milky blue colour, which it gets from the high concentration of rock flour – tiny 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 meromactic lake, which means it has layers that never mix, creating pools of water with distinct salinity, temperature, and oxygen levels. Thanks to these radically different ecosystems, Lake Malawi is home to a staggering number of fish species—more than 15 percent of all freshwater fish on Earth call it home.
    Located in the Tien Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan, Lake Ysyk is known locally as Issyk-Kul, which means “warm lake”, because despite its high altitude, it never freezes. Lake Ysyk was an important stop on the Silk Road, and remains of medieval settlements are found when water levels were low. Ysyk’s colorful history and incredible depth have inspired the travels of many treasure hunters, all of whom hope to find legendary ruins rumored to lie in the deepest part of the lake.

    Great Slave Lake (2,015 ft)

    Named after the Aboriginal people, sometimes referred to as the Slavey, Great Slave Lake in Canada lies on the shores of Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories. During the region’s long, cold winters, Great Slave Lake freezes and turns into an icy road, connecting communities usually separated by water. However, climate change has led to an early and unexpected thaw, creating dangerous conditions for motorists.

    Crater Lake (1,949 feet)

    Crater Lake in Oregon formed 7,500 years ago after a volcanic eruption caused a caldera 0.7 miles deep. Today, Crater Lake is a national park and is popular with visitors for its remarkably clear waters, as a result of the rain and snow that feeds the lake. In the late 1980s, researchers explored the depths of Crater Lake with a one-man submarine, discovering worms, insects, and crustaceans that had evolved to withstand the intense pressure 2,000 feet below the surface.

    Lake Matano (1,936 ft)

    Lake Matano is the deepest lake in Indonesia and the 11th deepest lake in the world. Matano is located on the island of Sulawesi, which is the highest lake in a chain of lakes known as the Maleli System. Isolated from other lakes, Matano is home to endemic fish and plants that have evolved unlike anywhere else on the planet. For example, of the 30 species of fish in the lake, scientists believe they all evolved from one common ancestor.

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

    Another Patagonian lake shared by Argentina and Chile, what you call this body of water will depend on which side of the border you are on. The indigenous people of the region called Lake Chelenko, which means “storm water”. For outdoor enthusiasts, it is known as a great leading sport fishing destination for trout and salmon.

    Hornindalsvatnet (1,686 ft)

    Located in Norway, Lake Hornindalsvatnet is the deepest lake in Europe – and one of its clearest too. Local legend has long held that a sea monster lives undetected in the deepest part of the lake; In 2012, three men claimed to have finally provided photographic evidence of the invisibility. However, skeptics dismissed the photo as a fake, saying that the photo actually showed a pair of floating logs.

    Lake Quesnel (1,677 ft)

    The deepest lake in British Columbia (and the deepest freshwater strait in the world), Lake Quesnel is located in an area of ​​the province known as the Caribou District. Popular with fishermen for the trout and giant salmon swimming in its frigid waters, in 2014, Quesnel’s water quality was severely affected by the largest mining waste spill into a lake ever recorded.

    Lake Toba (1,657 ft)

    Indonesia’s Lake Toba caldera occupies a supervolcano, a volcano characterized by supersonic eruptions that can cause tsunamis and climate change. The lake is home to Samosir Island, the largest island in the world, which is home to more than 100,000 people.

    Lake Sarris (1,657 feet)

    The 16th deepest lake in the world, Sariz Lake in Tajikistan, is only a century old. In 1911, an earthquake caused a 3.1-mile landslide to block the Morgan River, creating a 1,600-foot-deep lake. The earthen dam became known as the Asawy Dam, and since then, its stability has been a major concern. Some scholars believe that if the Usoi River failed during another earthquake, it would result in catastrophic flooding for five million people downstream. However, Usui Dam survived a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in 2015, with no visible signs of damage.

    Lake Tahoe (1,645 feet)

    Lake Tahoe, a major tourist attraction in both Nevada and California, hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics. The lake is so large and deep that it is believed to have its own microclimate, and experiences more snowfall than the surrounding areas. In fact, snow falls every month of the year in the area right around Lake Tahoe.

    Lake Argentino (1,640 feet)

    Located in Los Glaciares National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Argentina’s Lake Argentino is opaque green thanks to abundant lime in melting glaciers. Argentino is also the meeting place of three huge glaciers, namely, Perito Moreno, Unelli and Uppsala glaciers. The three glaciers are constantly dumping giant icebergs into Lake Argentino, where they drift until they finally melt.

    Sulfate (1,581 ft)

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

    Lake Kivu (1,575 ft)

    Lake Kivu is a major African lake located on the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Lake Kivu, a freshwater lake, is one of three lakes in the world known to have volcanic eruptions, a natural disaster in which dissolved carbon dioxide erupts from the depths, creating a large gas cloud that can suffocate humans and animals. Since more than two million people live near Lake Kivu, scientists are developing ways to get rid of the carbonated water and thus reduce the risk of disaster.

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