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Russians withdraw Lake Baikal record claim

Hit bottom short of deepest freshwater submersion

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The Russians have withdrawn their claim to have made the deepest freshwater submersion in Siberia's Lake Baikal after hitting bottom at just 1,580 metres (5,180 feet) - short of their planned touch-down at 1,680 metres (5,510 feet).

According to Reuters, the mission led by scientist and Kremlin-backed Russian MP Artur Chilingarov had hoped to dispatch submersibles Mir-1 and 2 to a point in the lake "deeper than the one hitherto considered its bottom, at 1,637 metres". This had previously been probed by another Russian submersible several years ago.

Although Russian media was quick to herald a record-breaking plunge into the abyss, this proved premature. Chilingarov, who controlled the attempt from a floating platform on the surface, admitted: "There was no record. But we'll continue exploration."

The ostensible purpose of the Lake Baikal mission is to "collect seabed samples and document Baikal's unique flora and fauna", but Russia has of late been eyeing the deep as a possible economic resource. Last year, Mir-1 and 2, led by Chilingarov, planted the Russian flag on the seabed at the North Pole in a symbolic "claim to the energy riches of the region", as Reuters puts it. ®

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