The Weird Natural Rock Art of Lake Baikal

Arctic

Poetically known as Baikal Zen, this rare effect happens when a flat rock that has fallen onto the ice catches the spring sun and melts the ice underneath it. Only a thin pedestal supporting the rock remains. The pedestal is far enough from the sides of the rock that it escapes melting. At night, the water beneath the rock refreezes.

Although the photos all come from Lake Baikal, this can occur on other frozen lakes as well, although the clear ice of Baikal seems important to its formation. No photos of Baikal Zen on white ice, which has mixed with air, seem to exist.

The phenomenon also needs wind. If you really want to do a deep dive into how this happens, some young physicists discuss it in a 40-minute video, complete with graphs and equations. Definitely un-zen.

ExWeb writer Ash Routen, who skied the length of Lake Baikal in 2018, writes about the ice’s mesmerizing “color, cracks, and swirly shapes of trapped pockets of air” but never saw the pedestal rocks during his trek.

About the Author

Jerry Kobalenko

Jerry Kobalenko

Jerry Kobalenko is the editor of ExplorersWeb. Canada's premier arctic traveler, he is the author of The Horizontal Everest and Arctic Eden, and is currently working on a book about adventures in Labrador. In 2018, he was awarded the Polar Medal by the Governor General of Canada.

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8 Comments on "The Weird Natural Rock Art of Lake Baikal"

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Marcelo
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amazing!!!!!!!

Brochet
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Just to add a hint, having tried to reproduce this phenomenon in lab, the main effect taking place is not the light/heat melting the ice, since such formations can happen in winter (where Baikal lake is often under zero °C) and can be found in caves (photos available on demand). This effect, in my opinion, has to do with fast, dry wind swirling around the stone and sublimating the ice. An effect of light (and more over of infrared radiation) would much more isotropic (ie taking place in all directions the same) than what the pic shows. You can find… Read more »
Brochet
Guest

By the way, the video you provided is also describing an answer to this very nice phenom., though a little differently.

Avdhut
Guest

That would explain why the ice is so smooth too…

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[…] EXPLORERSWEB, Tiny Fox Lab […]

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[…] Another theory says “this rare effect happens when a flat rock that has fallen onto the ice catches the spring sun and melts the ice underneath it” […]

Marcella
Guest

Really intriguing – and beautiful!

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[…] on top of a pillar of ice on Aconcagua much like Baikal zen (Aconcagua […]