Issyk Kul, Kyrgyzstan

Issyk-Kul (also Ysyk Köl, Issyk-Kol) is an endorheic lake in the northern Tian Shan mountains in eastern Kyrgyzstan. The lake is 182 kilometres (113 mi) long, up to 60 kilometres (37 mi) wide, and its area is 6,236 square kilometres (2,408 sq mi). This makes it the tenth largest lake in the world by volume (though not in surface area), and the second-largest saline lake after the Caspian Sea. Issyk-Kul means "warm lake" in the Kyrgyz language; it never freezes although snow-capped peaks surround it. Issyk-Kul Lake is the second largest perennial mountain lake in the world, behind Lake Titicaca in South America. It lies at an altitude of 1,607 meters with waters up to 668 meters deep.

Currently, lake salinity is approximately 6,000 ppm— compared to 35,000 ppm salinity of typical seawater— and, although the lake level is still currently some 8 meters (26 ft) higher than in medieval times, its level is now dropping around 5 cm per year due to water diversion for agricultural use. Its intermontane situation in an adiabatic shadow explains its arid cool steppe Koeppen climatic setting (Bsk). The lake has no current outlet, but some hydrologists hypothesise that lake-fed groundwaters seep into the nearby Chu River. Some 118 rivers and streams flow into the lake; the largest are the Djyrgalan and Tyup rivers. It is also fed by springs, including many hot springs, and snowmelt. In the summer months, surface water temperatures can reach 23°C.

Issyk Kul,looking southeast

Issyk Kul, south shore

Issyk Kul_jkw_reduced

The lake's southern shore is dominated by the Teskey Ala-Too Range of the Tian Shan mountains. The Kungey Alatau of the Tian Shan runs parallel to the north shore. Like Lake Van in Turkey, it is located in a foreland depression created by the Neogene collision of India with Eurasia. Issyk-Kul is located in the Northern Tien Shan tectonic province, which is an active continental orogenic zone and part of the Himalayan mountain suture. Hence the region is characterised by frequent seismic activity and is known to experience strong earthquakes (>6.5 on the Richter scale) The bottom of the lake contains seismically-disturbed laminites containing the mineral monohydrocalcite. Seismites and related water-escape and deformation/loading features are exposed in the late Pleistocene terraces which make up a significant proportion of lake-edge outcrops.The cool arid steppe climate of the lake and the moderate salinities of the laske waters mean no saline salts are currently accumulating in the lake.

The Issyk-Kul depression is known for strong earthquakes, notably the 1911 (М = 8.2) Kebin (Kemin) catastrophic earthquake, along with three intense seismic events (M6–7) in the past 100 years: the 1970 Sary-Kamysh, the 1978 Dzhanalash-Tyub and the 1990 Chon-Baisoorun events. These instrumentally registered seismic events (with the exception of the Sary-Kamysh) are confined to the northern part of the Issyk-Kul depression, perhaps leading to understated estimates of seismic potential along the southern coast of Issyk-Kul. Traces of a medieval seismic catastrophe have also been documented (Sweat, 2007)

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a 2500-year-old advanced civilisation now beneath the Lake. The data and artefacts obtained suggest that the ancient city was a metropolis in its time with a set of encompassing formidable walls, some stretching for 500 metres (1,600 ft). The traces outline a large city with an area of several square kilometres.

Other findings included Scythian burial mounds eroded over the centuries by waves, and numerous well-preserved artefacts, including bronze battle-axes, arrowheads, self-sharpening daggers, objects discarded by smiths, casting moulds, and money. 


A piece of a large ceramic pot found in the lake has a stamp on it written in Armenian and Syrian scripts

Articles identified as the world's oldest extant coins were found underwater, along with gold wire rings that were used as small change, as well as a sizeable hexahedral goldpiece. Also found was a bronze cauldron supposedly with a level of craftsmanship that is today achieved in an inert gas environment.

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