Russian subs to explore Lake Baikal

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KALININGRAD, July 9 (RIA Novosti) - Two Russian submersibles will make their first dive at Russia's Lake Baikal as part of scientific research for the Russian Academy of Sciences, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

The Mir-1 and Mir-2 deep-sea vehicles will perform 60 dives as part of unique research into the world's largest and deepest freshwater lake. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is 1,637 meters (5,371 ft) at its deepest point and contains around 20% of the world's fresh water.

"The first dive is scheduled for July 23," Anatoly Sagalevich said, adding that, "the expedition will be based at Baikal until mid-September," with the next phase in the research scheduled for next year.

Sagalevich said they were not ruling out the possibility of finding anoxic life forms from methane synthesis in the lake's sediment.

"In addition, during the dives, we will be able to obtain other pieces of important information, for example, on the lake's self-regulation processes," he said adding that traces of oil and gas could also be discovered, "so called gas hydrates."

The Mir submersibles were built in 1987 and can dive to 6 km (3.3 miles) with a crew of three on board. Russia used them to measure radiation levels last year near the Soviet-built K-278 Komsomolets submarine which sank in the Norwegian Sea, and as part of a symbolic Russian expedition to claim resource-rich Arctic territory.

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