The Weird Natural Rock Art of Lake Baikal

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.