Lakes are land-locked bodies of water that do not drain directly into the sea. Although none are as deep as the oceans, some are surprisingly deep and need specialized diving equipment to reach the lowest levels. At least one of the deepest lakes is popularly known as a sea, but technically it is a lake. When measuring depth, lakes are not measured from sea level. Because lakes are on the continental plate, some are well above or below sea level. Therefore, these depths start from the average surface level to the deepest part of the body of water.
Lake Baikal, Russia
The deepest lake in the world is Lake Baikal in Russia. At 5,387 feet (1,642 meters) the Baikal holds over 22% of the planet’s liquid freshwater – more than all the Great Lakes of North America combined. The total volume of water in the lake is approximately 5,660 cubic miles (23,615 cubic kilometers). Lake Baikal formed as the continental plate it sits on stretched and pulled apart some 30 million years ago. This pulling formed a rift valley, which is the first stage of ocean formation. For unknown reasons, the forces that ripped open the Earth’s crust to make this rift then stopped pulling the split open. The fissure filled with water and created the Baikal lake.
Lake Tanganyika, Central Africa
Lake Tanganyika shares territory in four central African countries; Tanzania, Burundi, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The second deepest lake in the world, Tanganyika is 4,823 feet (1,470 meters) at the deepest point. Also the world’s longest lake, Tanganyika has 18% of the Earth’s freshwater within it at 4,500 cubic miles (18,900 cubic kilometers) of volume.
The Caspian Sea, Eurasia
The Caspian Sea is a lake and the third largest in the world. This lake has a depth of 3,363 feet or 1,025 meters. Several countries share a part of the Caspian Sea, including, Iran, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Russia. The lake is a vital source of fish for locals and is also where Beluga Sturgeon eggs are harvested and sold as the most expensive caviar in the world.
Lake Vostok, Antarctica
The fourth deepest lake is Lake Vostok in Antarctica. Because Antarctica is so cold, the lake is permanently capped by solid ice about 1,500 feet (457 meters) thick. Underneath the ice, liquid water, and a community of unique plant and animal life exists in a sealed ecosystem. As the environment of Lake Vostok is so unique, it is protected by international agreements. This means that drilling the ice is carefully managed and avoided. For this reason, the exact depth is uncertain. The best estimates are a combination of the ice cap, and the liquid water is 3,300 feet (1,006 meters) in depth.
Lake O’Higgins, South America
Lake O’Higgins is also called San Martin in Argentina and is situated in South America with parts of the lake within both Chile and Argentina. With a depth of 2,742 feet (836 meters) Lake O’Higgins-San Martin is the fifth deepest in the world. The O’Higgins-San Martin lake has a natural milky blue coloring due to fine-grained rock particles suspended in the water from the O’Higgins Glacier.
Lake Malawi, Eastern Africa
Partially in the country of Malawi, also known as Lago Niassa in Mozambique, and Lake Nyasa in Tanzania, the Malawi lake sits in three African countries.LakeMalawi is the sixth deepest lake at 2,316 feet or 706 meters at the deepest part. After lake Tanganyika, Lake Malawi is the second deepest on the continent of Africa.
Issyk Kul, Kyrgyzstan
Issyk Kul in Kyrgyzstan is the seventh deepest lake at 2,192 feet or 668 meters in depth. Situated in the Tian Shan mountains, Issyk Kul translates to ‘warm lake’ in the local Kyrgyz language because although the lake is surrounded by snow-capped mountains the water of the lake does not freeze. The reason Issuk Kul does not freeze is due to the salt content, which comes from the rocks around it. Although Issyk Kul only has a salinity of 0.6%, this is enough to lower the temperature which the water needs to reach before freezing.
Great Slave Lake, Canada
Situated in the Northwest Territories of Canada, The Great Slave Lake is 2,015 feet (614 meters) deep. The lake’s name comes from the First Nations people the Slavey, although the people refer to themselves as Dene. The name ‘Slave’ was a term the Cree people once used to describe their enemies to the Colonialists.
The second deepest lake in Canada, Quesnel is in British Columbia. Measured at 2,001 feet, or 610 meters, Quesnel is the ninth deepest lake on Earth. Quesnel is a glacial lake also known as a fjord, and important as a source of drinking water and fresh fish. The areas around Quesnel are popular with sports fishing people and tourism.
Crater Lake, United States
One of the most unique lakes in the world, Crater Lake in the state of Oregon, US formed after a massive volcanic eruption and collapse of the volcano Mazama approximately 7,000 years ago. It took an estimated 700 years for rainfall to fill the caldera to its current depth of 1,949 feet (594 meters). Mount Mazama is an active volcano, meaning the area may erupt again, but is not considered dangerous. The deep blue color of the water and stunning views make Crater Lake a popular tourist destination.