Based on historical and anecdotal information available, it is
believed that the Turkish Van cat originated here. The breed was
first "discovered" in the 1950s by a pair of well-known
English photographers, Sonia Holliday and Laura Lushington, who
first brought the Turkish Van to the attention of English cat fanciers!
The Lake has a volcanic origin: At some time during the
Pleistocene Epoch (10,000 to about 2,000,000 years ago), huge lava flows
from the Nemrut and Sipan volcano extended for
nearly 60 km across the southwestern end of the basin, blocking westward drainage to the
Murat River and thereby transforming the depression into a lake basin without outlet.
Research data obtained shows that in I mil. BC the lake level was only 25-30m lower.
Situated at 1719 meters above sea level it receives a few short
streams but has no outlet. That is why its waters are
unusually rich in sodium carbonate and other salts extracted by evaporation and
used as detergents. Swimming in these brackish, "soda"
waters, where the only surviving fish is the herring, may result as an original experience, indeed.
Due to the annual inflow, higher than evaporation, the lake
level continues to rise: several peninsulas have become islands during the
19th and 20th centuries. In the 1986-1995 time period
a dramatic 2.16 m rise in water level occurred.
There is little left from the original dense wood along its shores. The only remains of
ancient woods are in a very small region on the southwestern shore. The
intensive pasture of huge Kurdish herds and deforestation for
firewood erased even the memory.