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Chivyrkuisky Bay

Chivyrkuisky Bay

Chivyrkuisky Bay
Source for this data set was the Global Land Cover Facility, www.landcover.org

By geological standards, quite recently, only a few thousand years ago, the Svyatoi Nos Peninsular was an island and was not connected to the mainland. People who lived at Baikal in those times called it Morda Osetra (sturgeon's snout), but perhaps somewhat differently. The island was separated from the eastern shores by a narrow strait, and two rivers, the Maly Chivyrkui and the Barguzine, entering Baikal to the south of the island, slowly but surely filled the strait up with sand and silt. Baikal's storms finished off the work, securely linking the island with the mainland by a sandy spit. The island became the largest peninsular at Baikal - the Svyatoi Nos, and the strait was transformed into a bay with numerous small deep and cosy bays that we now call Chivyrkuisky. Only the lakes of the Myagkaya Karga isthmus, bordering Chivyrkui from the south, now serve as a reminder of the strait's one-time existence.

The bay got its present name from the name of the river Bolshoi Chivyrkui that flows into it at its northern end. The river received its name from the Evenk word «chivir» - to twist, to move, to stir. Formerly, the bay was known as Kurbuliksky.

Chivyrkuisky Bay is part of the Zabaikalsky National Park. In area (about 270 square kilometres), Chivyrkui is second only to the Barguzine Bay. Because of the irregularity of its shoreline it is only possible to speak of the width of the bay very approximately: about 10 kilometres. Its length from north to south is about 27 km. Although at the entrance to the bay its depth is up to 600 metres, it quickly becomes shallow towards its southern end. The main part of the bay is shallows; even in its middle it has a depth of 10-20 metres, getting even shallower approaching the isthmus. The depth of bays within Chivyrkuisky Bay itself rarely exceeds 5 metres.

In the east, Chivyrkui is bordered by the spurs of the Barguzine Mountain Range, and in the west by the mountain peaks of the Svyatoi Nos. In the southern part of the bay there is low-lying wetland of the isthmus, lacking any elevation to speak of. These surroundings are the reason for the peculiar wind pattern of Chivyrkuisky Bay. Northern winds are dominant in these parts. In summer, the wind usually springs up in the morning from 8-9 o'clock; by 12.00-14.00 it reaches its greatest force, when the tips of waves become covered with merry white horses; towards 17.00 the wind usually dies down.

The northerly wind in Chivyrkuisky Bay is often called the «angara» or «verkhovik» (overhead wind), but this is not always correct. When the real «verkhovik» rises up, there will be a storm in Chivyrkui. But the northerly wind that blows in the bay almost every day is local and quite weak.

There are seven islands in Chivyrkuisky Bay: Bolshoi Baklany, Bolshoi Kyltygei, Maly Kyltygei, Bely Kamen, Svyatoi Eleny, Pokoinitsky Kamen and Kovrizhka. The first four are registered as «natural monuments». Bolshoi Baklany is the largest island. All the islands have «nature reserve» zone status within the Zabaikalsky National Park and access is restricted.

There are no other such deep and sheltered bays at Baikal as those in Chivyrkuisky Bay. Even the bays of the Maloye Morye don't compare with them. The shores of the Chivyrkuisky bays are covered in taiga, and their bottoms covered in carpets of algae; on a quiet day each blade is visible on the bottom, as are the shoals of fish feeding amongst them.

There are lots of fish in Chivyrkuisky bay. This is unlike the bays of the Maloye Morye, for example, where fish stocks have suffered severely from poaching. In the summer perch, Siberian roach, perch and pike can be caught. Of the latter, one can come across specimens of impressive size - over 10 kilograms - not infrequently.

Thanks to its inconsiderable depth and large number of sunny days, in summer the water in the Chivyrkuisky bays can heat up to 20-22 degrees, while in the shallow southern part of the bay it can get even warmer. In combination with the excellent beaches, some sandy, this makes Chivyrkuisky a very attractive place for summer holidays.

One of the most attractive places in Chivyrkui for tourists and holidaymakers is Zmeiny spring (snake spring), situated in a bay of the same name. The water here is similar in composition to Pyatigorsk springs, though the flow rate is very small - only 0.2 litres/sec. The spring itself is in the form of two timbered frames that can hold up to four people at one time. The spring got its name because of the large numbers of grass snake that once inhabited the place, but which are now a rarity because of the enormous anthropogenic load.

Chivyrkuisky Bay is connected with Ust-Barguzine by a road that passes along the Myagkaya Karga isthmus leading to the Monakhovo settlement, to go on further to the villages of Katun and Kurbulik. These three settlements are all there are in Chivyrkui. All told, there are forty to fifty households in Katun and Kurbulik put together, while there are less than a dozen in Monakhovo. But it is at these places that the majority of tourists coming to Chivyrkui in their cars gather, and in summer Monakhovo is more like a car park.

Despite the human impact growing from year to year, the taiga on the shores of Chivyrkui serves as a safe home for wild animals. In the XIX century the researcher Gustav Radde declined to climb to the Alpine tundra tops of the Svyatoi Nos because of the large number of bears. Today there are fewer bears and they try not to catch the human eye, but one frequently comes across their tracks. There are a particularly large number of bears on the eastern shores of Chivyrkuisky bay.

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