Lake Baikal and Olkhon Island

It was 1981 and there I was traveling to a small island on Lake Baikal. It was a long journey to get there as I did go overland. The goal was to watch the total Solar Eclipse that was about to happen.

I was lucky enough to get a ride on a Russian Navy vessel to the island for viewing as the tourist boats were all filled. This turns out to be one of the best experiences of the trip.

Russian Navy Ship Captain

The captain of the ship was a very nice guy and gave me a complete tour of his ship. He was a tall proud man with a great air of authority about him. His sense of humor and kindness will always be remembered. We were soon on the bridge of the ship and I was shown the workings of the ship.

Being the only foreigner on this Russian Navy vessel I received a lot of attention and here I am sitting with the Captain, his first mate and in the background the sleepy radio operator. We had a lot of fun and talked a lot about the problems created by governments and the fact that people were people and when sitting together they can always find common ground. People just want to have a good life and a good time.

The water was calm around the lake and the hour was early. The sun actually does not really set or rise. The sun goes up and down several times a day without ever reaching the zenith nor going down under the horizon.

Lake Baikal is a stunning natural lake with amazingly clean water. It is just outside of Irkutsk another amazing town in the middle of Siberia. I was happy that this was the beginning of August and weather was mild and nice. Soon we came within site of the main destination, the island of Olkhon, the fourth largest lake bound island in the world.

Olkhon island lake baikalSoon we would arrive and the next part of this expedition would start, the total solar eclipse and the reason for my round the world journey. As the Olkhon island loomed up out of the distance it became clear this would be one of the most exciting times in Russia.

You have to remember this was still Soviet times and I was an American tourist, one of the first to be allowed in after the start of the cold war thaw. It was thrilling to be there. The people were wonderful, colorful and full of life and fun. This was not the propaganda fed by my own government and I was quite surprised.

Next up? The total eclipse viewed from Olkhon island lake Baikal.

 

heroic-czarist