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Baikal Legends - The Sunny Cape of the Dead and the Baikal Seals
June 20, 2011 14:10


There is a cape on the western shore of Baikal Lake in Buryatia. It is a place provided with a very still bay, sheltered from storms and storm winds. Baikal mountains stay behind it. Amount of sunny days here is the same like on the Black Sea resorts. The people always lived here, because of rich resources of neighboring woods and steppes. Archaeologists discover here settlements of different peoples: Russian, Buryat, Tungus and Evenki ones. Now it is a part of national park. Famous Islands of Ushkanyi where Baikal seals rookery is situated are in front of the cape, just in 30 kilometers. One of the main Baikal sights - Chivyrkui Bay is situated in 50 kilometers by water. The sinister name only contrasts with all this.

Name


The name of the cape varies from Pokoiny to Pokoiniki. The first one can be translated like "quiet" and "deceased". The second one means "the dead". There is one more name, Solnechny, but this is about the Sun, and this is clear as well as "quiet". Weather on the cape is usually sunny and well. The legends tie its sinister names with a pair of grim stories.

Legends


One story is about fishermen. Long ago they went to this recess for fishing and suddenly died here from unknown disease. For a long time nobody knew what happened to them. When the bodies of unlucky fishermen had been found, the cape got such a Gothic name. Another story tells almost the same but about the Buryats. A big Buryat ulus (kind of nomad camp or settlement, and Turkic peoples' administrative unit) stood here very long ago. One day an evil thing happened: all the people died within few days. Nobody settled there since. Finally, the local public explains the name of the cape with a shipwreck happened not far from cape. Almost everyone from the crew had died. The hunters detected a few dead bodies, driven ashore. That's why they called this place Pokoiniki, of "the Dead". After this, fishermen began to avoid the cape and its bay, ironically very still.

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Ushkanyi Isles


Pokoiniki Cape is the nearest point of dry land to Ushkanyi Islands, known among ecologists as rookery of Baikal seals. This is an unique seal specie living in the fresh water and only in Baikal Lake. The islands are situated in the middle of Baikal. Actually, they are tops of Akademichesky mountains, rising above Baikal waters. On one of these islands is a meteorological station and one of offices of national park. Other islands are occupied mainly with the seals. The animals have given a name to the archipelago. Ushkan was a word for hare in Siberia. Seals in Russian North were called Sea hares.


The islands have rocky shores the seals like so much. Their biggest  ground is situated on the western side of Tonkiy Island. There is a special tour for people who want to look at these animals. The motor boats tie up on the eastern shore and let the tourists cross the island. At sunset, the seals move to the island in masses. The scientists count about 2000 seals uses this rookery. The Baikal seals are very shy, so if you speak loudly and make noise, they take immediately to the water from the stones.


Anyway, the Pokoiniki Cape is an unusual place. Some of the locals think it is sacred or something like this. Evenki and Buryats even brought their deceased here in accordance with their beliefs and left them. Animals and birds left nothing but skeletons in a short time. Now the Buryats still think the cape is sacred, although the ancient custom is forgotten.

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Author: Yulia Buzykina

Tags: Baikal Russian tourism Siberia   

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