Not far from the Mukhur Bay there flows the Sarma River with quick-flowing and extremely pure water. First of all the Sarma is known for its wind that blows from its valley like a wild boar sweeping off everything on its way. Fishermen and sailors fear this wind very much. In the delta of the Sarma one can see unique Baikal creatures, such as the Mongolian toad, the sandpiper – a long-fingered stint.
It is this squalling wind called the Sarma became the cause of the biggest tragedy in the recent past. The tragedy took place on the night of 14 – 15th of October, 1901 not far from the Olkhon Gates Strait in the Maloye Sea. During a storm the ship Potapov, belonging to the company of Nemchinov, came off the towing steamship; after that it was thrown on the rocks of Olkhon Island. The tragedy took away the lives of 158 people, 143 men, 11 women and 4 children among them. The property loss was 550 broken barrels of fish and 107 sank seines. We do not take into consideration the damages of other ships that sank in the storm.
The wild and insidious Sarma made people to percept Baikal as savage and powerful. In 1911 P. L. Drawert wrote a sonnet in which he reflected such perception.
The Baikal is overcastted with shaggy clouds,
A leaden shroud curtained the Khamar Daban
The clouds clutch like children at the rocky mountains
That overhang the murky greedy depth…
But suddenly an arrow made of fire shafts
Disturbed the silence with a rolling peal of thunder;
And threading in the water ripples as a threat
It showed a pre-arranged sign to the violent Sarma…
The water surface is swollen out, isn’t silent anymore;
The row of heavy raging waves is running
Like pack of beasts, extremely fierce and hungry,
And making foam on the steeps of coastal shore;
The cedars dig their trunks of thorns into the skies.
Through sounds of storm we hear their discourse wise.
Kurma is a little village on the shore of the Maloye Sea. Local people think that its name originates from the Buryat words хумээ, хурбээ that mean “have arrived, came”. According to the legend the Buryat of the Olkhon when crossing the mountains from the western side towards the Baikal reached this place and found it an appropriate place for living. Evidently people of ancient times had also reached these “extreme” places and built different defenses here. Thus, not far from the mouths of the Sarma, Zama and Kurma on some elevated places the Kurykan walls and watchtowers were found.
The village Zama and the nearest settlement Onguren got their names from two Buryat words – зам (way, road, passageway) and унгэ рээ (ending or the place where the road ends). According to the legend in the 17 – 18th centuries when the ancestors of the Olkhon Buryat migrated from other places and were settling along the Baikal the mountains extended to the very Sea blocked their way to the North. And one of the chiefs said: “Замунгэрээ”. It’s interesting to notice that the distance (79, 5 km) from the settlement of Onguren to Ust Barguzin (the latter is situated on the other coast of the Baikal) is supposed to be the largest width of the lake.
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