Lake Titicaca is one of South America's largest lakes and has developed a reputation as being one of South America's top tourist attractions.
This large, deep lake creates a natural border between Peru and Bolivia sitting at the northern end of the Altiplano Basin in the Andes Mountains. It is reputed to be the highest navigable body of water in the world at about 12,500 feet above sea level. It has a maximum length of 118 miles and a maximum width of 50 miles. More than 25 rivers and many glaciers empty into Lake Titicaca, but only one drains from it. This river drains about 5 percent of incoming water with the other 95 percent being lost through evaporation. There are more than 40 islands sprinkled throughout the lake, and a majority of them are inhabited.
Lake Titicaca has a cultural history that spans thousands of years, and the area is rich in ancient Incan ruins. According to Incan mythology, the lake was the site where civilization first began. It was here that the first Inca king is said to have been born of the sun god. Later, the gods created the king a wife. Together, they established a tribe that would eventually grow into the Inca Empire that dominated much of South America before the arrival of Europeans in colonial times.
There is an interesting story associated with the first steamship to cruise on Lake Titicaca. In 1862, a 165-ton steamship was built in Scotland and taken by ship in pieces around Cape Horn to Chile. It was then transported into Peru by rail and the parts loaded on to mules for the arduous climb to a city situated on the lake. The ship was reassembled by Peruvian Indians working under a Scottish engineer. The ship went into service as a ferry in 1874 crossing the lake from the city of Puno in Peru to the Bolivian shore near LaPaz. It was later replaced by a passenger boat built in England in 1931. This boat was also dismantled and transported to the lake where it was reassembled and put into service.
Larrie Stone is a retired Dana College science professor.