Lake Baikal in Siberia is the oldest, largest, deepest, and clearest freshwater lake in the world. From winter to spring ice starts to form on top of the water, creating an incredible glass-like surface through which you can view its considerable depths. Of course, skating out into the middle of any frozen lake is taking your life into your hands. Skating out onto the thin, fresh ice of the world’s deepest lake to film it as it cracks under you is a whole other level, but that’s exactly what photographer Alexey Kolganov did.
We’ll readily admit this is an anxiety-inducing video to watch, but totally worth it for the incredible “pew pew” sounds ringing out as the ice cracks. Didn’t know ice cracking sounds like a laser gun battle? Take a listen below and tell us it doesn’t.
Kolganov, who has plenty of stunning footage and pictures of this eerie, icy winter wonderland on his Instagram, recently shared a video of himself skating on the transparent ice at Lake Baikal in the southern part of eastern Siberia. His caption, which could be a joke or could be perfectly serious, warns this activity is not for the faint-hearted.
"The video shows cracks forming as I skate. Watch it to prevent phobias, with sound on, twice before bedtime a week before your planned trip to Baikal," he wrote next to the video.
The "sound on" part is important because whatever you were expecting to hear, this probably isn't it. Instead of a low ominous creak, or a sharp crack or crunch, it sounds like there is some kind of space battle raging under the ice.
Kolganov told the Siberian Times he slowed down the recording and amped up the volume to reveal the pings and pews as it can be difficult to catch the sound with a camera's microphone. He didn't say where abouts on the lake he was but that you could hear these sounds anywhere away from tourists and popular sites. And if the apparent thinness of the ice cracking is giving you a heart attack, Kolganov shared that the ice he was skating over is around half a meter (1.6 feet) thick, so even though cracks appear on the surface, there's still a solid chunk of ice you'd have to make it through before being embraced by Baikal's icy depths.
It's important to note that local Ministry of Emergencies officials have put out warnings for people not to skate on the newly formed thin ice, especially so early in the season and with Siberia's recent warm weather and earthquakes making the ice unstable. And, of course, to never go out on the lake alone.
So why does it make this distinctive "pew pew" noise (you know you can hear it even as you read the words)?
The sound is due to acoustic dispersion. The ice itself expands and contracts, causing it to crack, which creates vibrations. The ice has to be relatively thin for it to vibrate. As the cracks form they emit sounds made up of lots of frequencies. The high frequency popping sounds travel faster through the ice so they hit the ear first, followed by the low notes.
For anyone planning on taking a trip to Baikal in the hope of filming their own video for the 'gram, we're going to echo Kolganov's advice, watch his video twice to ensure you have a healthy dose of respect for this unforgiving environment and then read this guide on how to survive if you fall through thin ice before you step out the door.