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What is making Baikal grow? First, the lake is growing wider. It sits in a huge rift valley and its sides are gradually moving apart. Although it is widening by only five millimetres a year, multiply that by its depth and 636kilometre length and you get an extra 20 million cubic metres of water a year. The lake is also growing deeper. The area is seismically active and monitoring stations around and within the lake pick up more than 2000 earthquakes each year. Some of these can have drastic effects on the lake floor: in 1959 it dropped by 20 metres, at a stroke increasing the volume of the basin by 200 million cubic metres.

Cold wash was pumped in at the top of the rectifier and carried through the column in pipes bathed by the hot outgoing alcoholic vapour. By the time the wash reached the bottom, it was almost boiling. The hot wash was then pumped into the top of the second column and allowed to cascade over the perforated plates while steam was pumped in at the base. As the rising steam met the falling wash it stripped out the alcohol, leaving the spent wash to run out from the bottom. The hot vapour, now a mix of steam and spirit, was piped to the base of the rectifier.

Goldammer also came upon layers of clay baked as hard as it is in a kiln, the result of ancient coal fires burning like ovens. To date the clay, he approached an archaeological laboratory that used a thermoluminescence technique which measures the emission of light from radioactive isotopes when they're heated - to date ancient pottery. Trie dates ranged between 2000 years ago and the last ice age. Many of the charcoal deposits lie in corridors between rivers and deep valleys, suggesting that the light brush occasionally caught fire.

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