The Aral Sea was a lake lying between Kazakhstan in the north and Karakalpakstan, an autonomous region of Uzbekistan, in the south. The name roughly translates as “Sea of Islands”, referring to about 1,534 islands that once dotted its waters
Formerly one of the four largest lakes in the world with an area of 68,000 km2 (26,300 sq mi), the Aral Sea has been steadily shrinking since the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet irrigation projects. By 2007, it had declined to 10% of its original size, splitting into four lakes – the North Aral Sea, the eastern and western basins of the once far larger South Aral Sea, and one smaller lake between the North and South Aral Seas.By 2009, the southeastern lake had disappeared and the southwestern lake had retreated to a thin strip at the extreme west of the former southern sea. The maximum depth of the North Aral Sea is 42 m (138 ft) (as of 2008).