Following on from our guide to the world's longest rivers, we're continuing the watery theme and taking a look at lakes. Which are the biggest, deepest, highest lakes in the world? What other notable lakes are there?
The Caspian Sea - The World's Biggest Lake
The standard answer to a question about the world's biggest lake is the Caspian Sea, which is 143,000 square miles in size. What, but that's a sea, I here you say! Well, yes and no. When the ancient Romans arrived at its shores, they discovered the water was salty, so called it a sea (naming it the Caspian Sea after the local tribe that lived around there). Because it is landlocked and not connected to the ocean, it is properly a lake however. But if you are after the world's largest freshwater lake...
Lake Superior - The World's Largest Freshwater Lake
The second largest lake in the world is Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes in the US and Canada. It is a freshwater lake, so is the largest freshwater lake (watch out for tricky quizmasters asking this one), as well as being the largest lake in North America. It is 31,700 square miles in size, so quite a bit smaller than the Caspian sea...
Lake Victoria - The Largest Lake in Africa
The third biggest lake in the world is Lake Victoria, which is also the largest lake in Africa. It is 26,590 square miles and is in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. As we found out in the article on rivers, there was lots of expeditions to try and find the source of the Nile, and in 1858 one such explorer, John Hanning Speke, sighted Lake Victoria, naming it after the British Queen, Victoria.
Africa also has two other of the 10 biggest lakes in the world, Tanganyika at number 6, and Lake Malawi at number 9.
The Great Lakes
We've already come across Lake Superior, but numbers four and five in the list of biggest lakes in the world, as well as 11 and 13, are also part of the Great Lakes which span the US and Canada. They are (in order) Huron, Michigan, Erie and Ontario.
Lake Baikal - The World's Deepest Lake
The world's 7th biggest lake, Lake Baikal, is also the deepest lake in the world. At its deepest point it is 1,620 metres deep, or just over a mile... It also contains the most freshwater, in fact 20% of the world's unfrozen freshwater is in Lake Baikal.
Rounding Off the Top 10
The remaining lakes in the top 10 are both in Canada, Great Bear Lake at number 8 and Great Slave Lake at number 10.
In summary, here's the list of the top 10:
1 Caspian Sea 143,000 sq mi (Europe/Asia)
2 Superior 31,700 sq mi (North America - US/Canada)
3 Victoria 26,590 sq mi (Africa)
4 Huron 23,000 sq mi (North America - US/Canada)
5 Michigan 22,000 sq mi (North America - US/Canada)
6 Tanganyika 12,600 sq mi (Africa)
7 Baikal 12,200 sq mi (Asia - Russua)
8 Great Bear Lake 12,000 sq mi (North America - Canada)
9 Malawi 11,400 sq mi (Africa)
10 Great Slave Lake 10,000 sq mi (North America - Canada)
Biggest Lake in Europe
The biggest lake in Europe is Lake Lagoda in Russia, which is the 14th biggest lake in the world. In fact, most the 10 biggest lakes in the world are in Russia. The fourth biggest lake in Europe is Lake Vanern in Sweden, the sixth biggest is Lake Saimaa in Finland, and the 9th and 10th biggest lakes are Kremenchuk Reservoir and Kakhovka Reservoir, both in Ukraine.
Biggest Lake in South America
The largest lake in South America is Lake Titicaca. It may only be 3,232 square miles, but it is the world's highest navigable lake with an altitude of over 12,000ft. It is partly in Bolivia and partly in Peru. It has 41 islands, most of which are inhabited.
Biggest Lake in Australia
While more known for its deserts, Australia does have many large lakes. The largest lake is Lake Eyre, named after John Edward Eyre who was the first European to discover it in 1840. It is only the largest lake some of the time however, as in the summer it often dries up completely! It is a saltwater lake, and when it dries it leaves a salt crust and takes on a pink hue.