6 The Blizzard at Lake Khanka
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53 The Blizzard at Lake Khanka Historical and Geographical Information about Lake Khanka. The Hasty Flight of Birds. Lost. The Blizzard. A Grass Shelter. Return to Camp. Lake Khanka (Kenka in Gold), located between 44°36' and 45°2' north latitude, is a somewhategg-shapedbodyof water.1 Itissituated such that the broad, round end of the “egg” is in the north, and the tapered end of the“egg”facessouth.Atitsmaximumthelakeis60kilometerswide,and at its minimum is 30 kilometers wide. It is about 260 kilometers around, 85kilometerslong,andcoversanareaofabout2,400squarekilometers.2 KhankahasanotherappendageinthenorthcalledMalaya[“lesser”] Khanka(SyaokhuinChinese,orDabukuinGold),whichis15kilometers long, 2.5 kilometers wide, and separated from Lake Khanka by a narrow sandbar that formerly served as a travel corridor from Manchuria to the Ussuri Kray.3 Approximately 25 percent of Lake Khanka, in the north, is Chinese territory. The border between China and Russia follows a 1. Here and elsewhere in the text, geographical coordinates have been updated from the original manuscript for accuracy. 2. Contemporary calculations show the area of Lake Khanka to be 4,190 km2. 3. At least today, these measurements are inaccurate. Lesser Khanka is approximately 35 kilometers long and 4–5 kilometers wide. 6 54 The 1902 Expedition straight line from the mouth of the Tur River (Bayminkhe in Chinese) in the west to the Sungacha River (Sunachan in Chinese) in the east.4 During the Liao Dynasty the lake was called Beytsinkhan, and in Chinese is now called Khanka, Khinkay, or Sinkaykhu, the latter of which means “lake of prosperity and fortune.”5 However, we must assume that the name Khanka was derived from another word, specifically khankhay, which means “basin” and is a word the Chinese use for any depression, be it dry or water-filled. For example, the western part of the Taklamakan Desert is referred to by this name. Lake Khanka, with its surrounding wetlands, really is a basin, and therefore the name Khankhay is quite suitable. The expansive wetlands to the north, west, and south of the lake are evidence that the lake was much larger at one time. The Lefu River mouth was once somewhere near the village of Khalkidon, or perhaps even further south. The Sungacha River probably did not exist, and the lake was directly connected to the Ussuri River by a series of channels. Today, Lake Khanka is no more than 50 meters above sea level. The average elevation of the ridge that separates the Suyfunskaya River basin fromthelakeisabout180meters.Thisexplainsthemultitudeofwetlands in the river valleys of the inner basin. The oldest side of the lake is its western side, where clay from the Tertiary period is visible in outcroppings .6TheoldestvillagesalongthelakeareTuryRog[“Tur’shorn”]and Kamen-Rybolov [“fishermen’s rock”].7 Khanka, like any lake through which rivers flow, is constantly being filled with sediment and becoming shallower over time. On average, the lake is 10 meters deep. The slow process of the lake filling with sand and silt continues to this day.8 The lake waters are quite rough due to the shallow depth; even small swells reach the lake bottom, and therefore breaking waves are found not just along the shoreline, but in the middle of the lake as well. 4. This river forms the border between Russia and China from Lake Khanka until it flows into the Ussuri River, approximately 200 kilometers to the north. 5. The Liao Dynasty was from 907 to 1125 AD. 6. The Tertiary period was 70 million to 2 million years ago. 7. The former was settled in 1859 and the latter in 1865. 8. Presently, the average depth of Lake Khanka is approximately 4.5 meters. The Blizzard at Lake Khanka 55 Having completed the necessary preparations, Dersu and I started off. Since we intended to return by evening, we left all superfluous items at camp and traveled light, but just in case I wore a long-sleeved shirt under my jacket. Dersu brought his tarpaulin and two pairs of fur socks. As we walked he frequently looked at the sky and said something to himself; finally he turned to me and asked: “So, Captain. Our soon go back or not? My think, night will be bad.” I answered that there was just a little ways yet to Khanka, and that once we got there we would not linger long. Dersu was amiable; in fact it was always easy to persuade him. He consideredithisdutytowarnaboutimpendingdangersand,ifhiswarnings went unheeded, to then cede the point, walk in silence, and not argue. “Ok, Captain.” He answered. “You decide...



Subject Headings

  • Ussuri River Valley (Russia and China) -- Description and travel.
  • Natural history -- Ussuri River Valley (Russia and China).
  • Dersu Uzala.
  • Arsenʹev, V. K. (Vladimir Klavdievich), 1872-1930 -- Travel -- Ussuri River Valley (Russia and China).
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