baikal stonesThe stones of Baikal have a language of their own. Not only because the ages have laid bare their core and because the waves, polishing away all roughness, have covered them with varnish, as it were, so that the granite, as varicoloured as a magpie's egg, shows up every vein in feldspar, quartz, or mica as they sparkle in the sun, while others have become as beautiful as semi-precious stones-the famous lazurite, as blue as the mid-autumn sky; amazonite, a blend of gentle greens and blues laced with white threads; and, finally, baikalite, first found by geologists here on the shores of the "glorious sea" and named after it. Baikal stones have a language of their own, for the lapidary waves of each bay polish them in a very distinctive fashion: in some bays, the stones are oval and speckled like the fossilized fruit of mysterious trees (millions of years ago Baikal was a warm, shallow lake on the shores of which different tropical plants grew, and tapirs roamed at will until the harsh hand of the Ice Age swept all this off the face of the earth); in others, the pebbles are as flat and round as big ancient coins; in others, they are flaky, and each flake stands for compressed centuries; it is an unhurried chronicle of past epochs, letters from the past that can only be read by a geologist. Any old timer, seeing a pebble in the hands of a new-comer, will tell at a glance where the visitor has been-to Chivyrkuisky Bay or Cape Turali, where he listened to the singing sands, or to Ayaya Creek in the north. Where the surf washes the broken cliffs, holding them down under the water for hours on end, the stones are festooned with shaggy green weeds called Ulothrix. Early in summer, the pebbles on the beach are thickly covered with caddis flies that look like large moths, and then the whole shore seems smeared with furry soot. They come here in countless myriads, driven by the instinct for the preservation of the species. Having done their duty and having laid their eggs covered with a protective integument in the water, the caddis flies die and their bodies are rocked by the ripples like little dry leaves, but not for long-they become food for the fish. Shamansky (Shaman's). Baklany (Cormorants'), Bezymyanny (Nameless) rocks-these are the names given by our forefathers to some of the islands. Indeed, all of them-ranging from the small and angular Yelenka, or Izokhoi, from the white surfaces, like fortress walls, of Shargodegan to the enormous Olkhon-seem a handful of pebbles thrown down by the giant mountain ranges as a gift to the enormous blue lake.

Baklany Rock near Peschanaya (Sand) Bay was once the habitat of a colony of cormorants. Large birds with paddle-like feet, they held their noisy assemblies on this island, nested and hatched their young. Driven away by the proximity of man, they settled in other places and only the name of the island preserves the memory of these birds. In ancient times, Buryats, the local people, believed in the magic powers of Shamansky Rock at the source of the Angara: prayers were offered there, the wrongdoer was brought to it for the night and left above the ice-cold stream, and if in the morning he had not been washed away by the river or had not died of fright and Baikal's icy breath, he was pardoned. Legend has it that Baikal's daughter, Angara, once tricked her wards and in the middle of a dark night ran away to her beloved, Yenisei. The enraged father on waking up, threw an enormous boulder after the fugitive; this was Shamansky Rock.