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Diving in Mongolia

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Country

Mongolia is a landlocked sovereign country located in East-Central Asia. It borders Russia to the north and China to the south. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest city, is home to about 38% of the population. Mongolia's political system is a parliamentary republic. It is also the world's second-largest landlocked country after Kazakhstan. The country contains very little arable land, as much of its area is covered by arid and unproductive steppes, with mountains to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the south. Approximately thirty percent of the country's 2.9 million people are nomadic or semi-nomadic. The predominant religion in Mongolia is Tibetan Buddhism, and the majority of the state's citizens are of the Mongol ethnicity, though Kazakhs, Tuvans, and other minorities also live in the country, especially in the west. I though it might be time to post some of my Mongolian dive photos. Together with Sinoscuba in Beijing I helped organise a dive expedition to the undived Lake Khovsgol in Mongolia: a 130 km long lake that holds 2 % of the worlds fresh water as well as a number of soviet era boat wreaks and 60-70 car wreaks (from when the lake freezes over). It took 26 hours behind the wheel to drive 1 tonne of dive gear 800 km to the lake – there’s only a few tracks most of the way, and only a few tourist ger camps up there once you arrive. Getting all that dive gear into Mongolia was a lengthy headache in itself.. The water was cool, but not too bad for a lake thats frozen over for 6 months of the year. Vis was excellent and water quality was fantastic: it's some of the purest water in the world, and it’s nice to be able to spit your reg out and take a drink. We used a side-scan sonar to locate a number of wreaks and other features, and took water quality measurements throughout the lake. "It's a very interesting different world," Svoboda said. "70 percent of our earth is under the water, and everything is different there. I love to watch the fish for example, how they live in their natural place—I love to see the wrecks." Svoboda estimates there are dozens of cars submerged in Khovsgol, a tanker truck, and possibly numerous Buddhist relics, rumored to be hidden during the socialist purges of monasteries last century. While the area surrounding Khovsgol, and even its surface are famous for their beauty, the lake's depths, which reach 262 meters, remain largely unknown. Svoboda has already breached its surface dozens of times, but the size, splendor and mystery of the lake keep him coming back. "It's very exciting because I'm diving in places where people have never dived before. For example in Khovsgol, I think some Russian divers did dive there, but definitely not where I was. The lake's so big and there is so much to discover " He may not have been the first to dive in Khovsgol, but Svoboda is certain he was the first to dive in the smaller Ugii and Terkhiin Tsagaan lakes, found almost directly west of Ulaanbaatar. Very few people in Mongolia dive, and while the government has a diving corps, they primarily search for drowned bodies and see minimal action. Ultimately, finding equipment is difficult, and the cost of importing it makes it prohibitive to many Svoboda brought his supplies from the Czech Republic. He first learned to dive in 2005 in his native country, with the ultimate goal, however, of plunging into Khovsgol.
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