BALKASH, or Balkhash (called by the Kirghiz Ak-denghiz or Ala-denghiz and by the Chinese Si-hai), a lake of Asiatic Russia, in the Kirghiz steppes, between the governments of Semipalatinsk and Semiryechensk, in 45° to 47° N. and 73° 30' to 79° E., about 600 m. to the east of Lake Aral. It is fourth in size of the lakes in Eurasia, having an area of 7115 sq. m., and lies at an altitude of 90o ft. It has the shape of a broad crescent, about 430 m. long from W.S.W. to E.N.E., having its concave side turned southwards; its width varies from 36 to 53 m. Its north-western shore is bordered by a dreary plateau, known as the Famine Steppe (Bek-pak-dala). The south-east shore, on the contrary, is low, and bears traces of having extended formerly as far as the Sasyk-kul and the Ala-kul. The Kirghiz in 1903 declared that its surface had been rising steadily during the preceding ten years, though prior to that it was dropping. The chief feeder of the lake is the Ili, which rises in the Khantengri group of the Tian-shan Mountains. The Karatal, the Aksu and the Lepsa also enter from the south-east, and the Ayaguz from the north-east. The first three rivers make their way with difficulty through the sands and reeds, which at a quite recent time were covered by the lake. Although it has no outlet, its waters are relatively fresh. It freezes generally from November to April. Its greatest depth, 35 ft., is along the north-west shore. The fauna of the lake and of its tributaries - explored by Nikolsky - is more akin to the fauna of the rivers of the Tarim basin than to that of the Aral; it also does not contain the common frog. It seems, therefore, probable that Lake Balkash stood formerly in communication through lakes Ebi-nor and Ayar (Telli-nor) with the lake that formerly filled the Lukchun depression (in 892° E. long. and 422° N. lat.), but researches show that a connexion with Lake Aral - at least in recent times - was improbable. The lake has been investigated by L. S. Berg (see Petermanns Mitteilungen, 1903).
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