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Home » Ile-Alatau nature national park. Issyk gorge. Walks on parks of Kazakhstan.

Tragedy Issyk lake (1963).

Hiking lakes Northern Tien-Shan.

“We know nothing at all. All our knowledge is but the knowledge of schoolchildren. The real nature of things we shall never know” 

Albert Einstein.

Tours by Silk Road Adventures Kazakhstan. 

The Issyk gorge is rich of contrasts... Here everything is combined in a strange way: the broken bottles and pure air, cows and the helicopter platform, small houses destroyed by the stream and time and the asphalted roads and a three-meters high orthodox wooden cross.
The rocks rising to the coast and fur-trees make the slopes inaccessible. In some places the rocks get into the water forming tiny bays and small islands. Slim fur-trees rise from the water and are reflected in the transparent waters of the lake. In clear weather the lake competes its beauty with the brightness of the southern sky.
During the day, at different light, its waters change the color from blue to emerald, and even lead with silvery combs of waves. It's possible to admire the lake in the afternoon and in the midnight too under the moonlight when everything looks like in the fairy tale and has a fantastic view.
The numerous and various processes occurring in the lake, are closely related with its landscape position. The climate here is very moderated. In summer the temperature does not exceed 22 degrees, in winter -6 degrees. In the lake area yearly falls up to 800 mm.
Thus about 40 % from it - rains in May-June. In geographical literature the Issyk lake is described a lot. In 1887 the well known geologist, the professor of the Petersburg University Ivan Vasilevich Mushketov visited the lake; in the 2-nd volume of "Turkestan" he described a source of the lake and stated that "with time the lake will flow down and there will be a bottom left, - it's the main characteristic of all the rivers in the Tian-Shan".
In the article "The earthquake in Vierney" (1888) Mushketov printed the photos of the Big Issyk Lake, which he named as glacial. The color of the water he described as bright green and noticed the magic beauty of the lake and the surroundings.
The geographer, the professor of the Tomsk University Vasily Vasilevich Sapozhnikov researched the lake in more details (1904). He defined here a number of absolute heights by barometric method.
He referred the lake to the dam type , though he didn't mention the origin of this natural dam. He marked a filtration of water through the dam and thus resulting in the fluctuation of the lake level.
AJankovskaya in works of Almaty reserve (1932 issue 2) published "Hydro-biological sketch of mountain Isyk Lake in lie Alatau". The author mentioned, "the dam of the lake is glacial consisting of a material which fell from the nearest ridges" (Bulletin of KazSU, №10).
Landslide-tectonic lakes settle down in the rivers valleys. Formation of their hollows is related with the displacement on the break zones, lowering of separate blocks or with the collapses of slopes of river valleys resulted after the tremors. In this case the landslide material presented by enormous blocks, partitions off a valley, forming a lake.
So there was also a natural dam of the Esik Lake, height of 300 meters. Time when the blockage occurred is difficult to define though some authors state it is 8000 years old, but this is indirect data.
It is important to note some basic characteristics of that lake Issyk which existed till Sunday on July, 7th, 1963. Its height above the sea level was 1760 meters. Its configuration reminded an ellipse extended by a long axis from east to west for 1850 meters at its average width of 600 meters.
The area of a lake mirror was equal to 1 sq. km., at seasonal downturn of the level it was reduced up to 0.5 sq. km. The greatest depth of the lake reached 55 meters (northern part, near to a spillway), near to a viewing platform at the artificial western part of the dam, which construction started in 1981 and proceeded for about 10 years.
The eastern part of the dam is natural. Now the volume of the lake several times exceeds only the half of the old lake volume. On July 7th, 1963 in the overheads Zharsai - the left inflow of the Issyk river -a catastrophic torrent which caused tragic consequences was generated; it destroyed the picturesque Alpine lake. The flow entered the lake as twelve high waves within four hours.
The maximal volume of the flow reached several hundred cubic meters. It caused the huge size waves (about 3-5 meters high) which fell down onto the opposite coast (dam). The interesting fact: on this day honored guests should have arrived to the lake.
Thus it was decided not to transport people to the beaches of the left coast. People were transported to another place on the river. Shops were placed there as well. As the police captain Shishaev who was responsible for the safety and order on beach zones said, the boy came to him and told, that water in the river began to grow turbid, later the snags, dust, brunches flew on its surface.
Shishaev went by a boat to the beach. Trying not to cause any panic he offered people as soon as possible to leave the beach on the barge. Unfortunately, he had no power to take all of them by force, though this could rescue many lives.
About one hundred and fifty people remained on the beach. Soon the Chairman of the Ministers Cabinet of the USSR A.N.Kosygin with his son and the secretary of the Central Communist Party of Kazakhstan D.A.Kunaev arrived.
When they were about to get to the boat, a strange noise came from the beach, as if the strong wind started. The leaders left and in a few minutes, the wooden mooring on which they were standing was taken away with the water.
The picture everybody saw is difficult to explain. A huge water mound came from the mountain and fell onto the beach. Due to the words of the people who saw this, every time the water went into the lake, the lake was boiling.
The whole volume of the lake (over 18 mln cubic meters) was "worked over" completely by 2 pm on July 8. No victims were in the city, but the flow destroyed more than 200 houses, and their remains were taken to the Kulzha road, twenty kilometers away.
The earth flow caused a huge material damage; there were victims among the people who were on the beach. A monument, three meter cross, was established on the dam with words:
Tragedy of mountains,
The divine cover,
The flood carried you away,
God took you to the eternity.
You were perished in the water stream,
For your torments you found piece.
On the not flooded part of the lake there's a road, if you take it, you can get to the Almaty reserve (the area is about 1000 sq. km.). On its territory there is 22-meter a cell dam built by the Georgian experts in 1982, approximately in 3 kilometers high from the lake.
There you can see so-called "the Kremlin wall" where usually trainings and competitions of rock-climbers take place. Above the dam there is no road, tracks go on both sides of the river, its coasts are steep, rocky, have absolutely wild appearance.
However: « there's a pleasure in callous thickets, the joy is on a mountain steepness » (D.G.Byron). The Issyk lake is located in a beautiful place and its destiny is very actual today. For many years the issue of restoration of the rest zone is being negotiated.
The whole tourism infrastructure was abandoned since the date of the accident and almost for forty-year ownerless existence it was ruined. Regenerative works will demand many forces and financial expenses, but, nevertheless, this idea is in the program of development of the Enbekshikazakh area. It is supposed to organize horse and pedestrian routes to the lake, to open enterprises dealing with the tourist services along the road.
But yet these plans are only on the paper as there are no reliable investors. We shall hope, that shortly « wild tourism » here will be replaced by the civilized, comfortable, meeting all the requirements of clients rest and the camp site, which like a bird Phoenix, will revive from ashes.
We come back to Issyk city and on the first street light we turn to the right, going to the east to the city border. Further the road runs through fields and gardens. There 're cemeteries located due to the ancient custom at a roadside.
Among gravestones we can see opened a four-wall sagana prevail. But the dome mausoleums stand out due their solemn view, which appeared in the territory of Kazakhstan with the arrival of Islam.
The prominent feature of the mausoleum is the portal and the rich decor, which a mazar - ancient dome type of nomadic tombs - didn't have. A construction of these monuments is a vestige to the old traditions of worship to the ancestor spirits.
In fact Mohammed said that a tomb of a Moslem should not be visible from the seven steps. We are promised to have paradise with the maidens And the bowls filled with purple wine. Is it reasonable to avoid the beauties and wine, If we meet them anyway? O.Hajam.

Monument on the Issyk lake.Trees brought on lake Issyk, during lodging on July, 7th, 1963, on the river Issyk.

Lake Issyk after lodging per 1963.Pilot Igor Tselman participated in evacuation of tourists from lake Issyk during tragedy in 1963.Fragments of a wood at the bottom of lake Issyk after lodging 1963.During lodging on lake Issyk.Destroyed motorway below lake Issyk.Canyon in a dam of the lake Issyk, formed during lodging on July, 7th, 1963.Monument on the Issyk lake.

By the deserved worker of tourism of Republic Kazakhstan, the candidate of pedagogical sciences, the guide - methodologist Lyuterovich Oleg.

Alexander Petrov