• Rhizaldy Manalo

The Caspian Sea Monster

28 to 34 million years ago, dinosaurs and other monstrous sea creatures roamed near and in the Paratethys sea

This mighty ocean, larger than the Mediterranean is today, was the origin of today’s largest inland salt-water lake in the world, the Caspian sea, sister to the lesser known Black sea, and bordered by the countries of Central Asia, Russia, Iran, and Azerbaijan.

This is where our journey to understanding this behemoth of salt-water proportions begins.

The Caspian sea, or Hyrcanian Ocean as the ancient Greeks and Persians refer to it, makes up nearly 1/3 of the world’s inland water content. Its economic and political impact on the countries sharing its shores cannot be overstated and its historical and geological allure to scientists and arm-chair historians are candy to their child-like minds.

Battles at the Caspian Sea

This monster of a salt-water lake is the final resting place for the largest aircraft ever built by man. Literally named the Caspian Sea Monster, this testament to Russian aircraft engineering is almost as long - and as wide - as a football (soccer) field.

Unfortunately, or rather fortunately for other countries, this Sea Monster plummeted to the depths of the Caspian during its initial test run in the 1980s. Earlier, during in the 1700s, Peter the Great, then Tsar of Russia intended to invade Iran through the Caspian Sea.

This conflict, Persian Campaign of Peter the Great, was a major catalyst for the existing tensions between the two countries even up to modern times.  While a century later, the Russian Civil War was fought with a naval front in the Caspian sea between the allied White Army and the Marxist socialist Red Army led by Vladimir Lenin. 

Having its share of historical landmarks, this ocean also has its share of scientific importance.

Scientific Wonders of the Caspian

A computer generated image of the caspian sea near turkmenistan
The Caspian Sea, Computer Generated - CTTO: ShutterStock

Navy Seals are what Americans call their elite group of soldiers. Caspian seals on the other hand are neither soldiers, nor are they SEALs, or at least not in the military sense. These are one of the few seal species that live in inland waters and are the only seal species found in the Caspian probably due to the Caspian forming from the Paratethys and cutting off the seal from the rest of the world. The Caspian is also home to a few dolphin species, and a species of beaked whales endemic to the region.

Caspian sea, with its deepest point being nearly 1,000 meters deep is deeper than the depths of the Persian Gulf, making it the deepest point of any lake, second only to Lake Baikal in Eastern Russia.

Due to scientific findings, the Caspian sea was determined to be the richest sea in terms petroleum and hydrocarbons, or natural gases.

Economical Impacts to Bordering States

“A strange thing to behold, for there issueth out of the ground a marvelous quantity of oil, which serveth all the country to burn in their houses. This oil is black and is called Nefte. There also by the town of Baku, another kind of oil which is white and very precious.”

English traders, Thomas Bannister and Jeremy Duckett where most likely referring to petroleum as the white oil. 

In the mid 16th century, British oil moguls and hydro engineers discovered huge deposits of  petroleum and oils in the region. Back to present day, the Caspian sea and its surrounding countries are some of the oldest producers of  oil and natural gas in the world, and plays an important resource in the global oil economy. This however, is just part of what runs most of the livelihood of people from the Caspian. 

Countries such as Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan, have each of their own tourism revolving around the Caspian sea. Turkmenistan, as an example, has the rising hotel and resort spa in the Caspian called the Caspian Awaza, famous for its high-quality luxury services and relatively economical price ranges. The country also built the largest port in the Caspian sea to date, the Baku port.

All these richness, of course, is not left unnoticed by the governments of the countries on its shores.

Political Challenges

In August of 2018, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, together with the presidents of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan signed the landmark Caspian Sea deal which grants economic and political domain to up to 15 miles off shore of each countries’ side of the Caspian sea. Any sea area pass the 15 mile line is international water.

The seabed however is a far different story, with many of the bordering countries claiming to own more seafloor area than is stated on the sea boundaries, owing to the richness of natural oil deposits off-shore, the future of the Caspian’s oil trade and political inclinations is still to be determined.

CentrAsia Tours assists in guided tours on the great Caspian Sea.


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