Submarine hunts for Tsarist gold 'worth billions' in Lake Baikal

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Explorers have returned to Lake Baikal equipped with two minisubmarines to continue a hunt for a fortune in Tsarist gold that, legend has it, was carried by Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak’s White Army as it fled the advancing Bolsheviks during Russia’s civil war.

Tales abound about the fate of Kolchak’s gold — a haul estimated at 1,600 tonnes and worth billions of pounds today. One version has it that troops retreating on foot and horsecarriage across Baikal’s icy surface froze to death as temperatures hit minus 60C (minus 76F) in the winter of 1919-20. When the spring thaw arrived, they and the sacks of Imperial gold sank to the bottom of the massive lake, which contains 20 per cent of the world’s fresh water.

Others say that the treasure was lost when railway carriages plunged into the lake from a branch of the Trans-Siberian line at Cape Polovinny. Intriguingly, one of the mini-submarines spent five hours yesterday more than 1,000 metres below the surface searching for railway carriages, after wheels dating from the civil war were found nearby.

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