News FocusProfile: Artur Chilingarov

Diving Into the Sacred Sea

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Science  12 Jun 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5933, pp. 1382-1383
DOI: 10.1126/science.324_1382b

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Lake Baikal, the largest, deepest, most ancient, and most biologically diverse freshwater lake on Earth, faces a number of threats. Until it closed last year, a pulp and paper mill had been allowed to spew harmful dioxins into the lake for decades. Other threats include the effect of climate change and the unknown influence of tons of crude oil that naturally seep into the lake every year from fissures in the bedrock. Prompted by such potential menaces to the lake, scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences last year began a program of research using two deep-water Mir minisubmarines to make physicochemical analyses, obtain geological and biological specimens, and monitor tectonic processes on the lakebed. Artur Chilingarov, the oceanographer and explorer who leads the expedition (see main text), stresses that the emphasis of research must be on preserving the lake for future generations.