Australia’s famous pink Lake Hillier was discovered in 1802 by a Royal Navy explorer. Its strawberry milkshake color is amazing and a sight to behold. Lake Hillier is situated near the coast of Middle Island in the Recherche Archipelago to the south of Western Australia. The reason for its pink color is debatable, but it has perhaps something to do with the microorganisms which live in the lake. Scientists believe that it is with the presence of a specific species of microalgae called Dunaliella Salina.
These salt-loving photosynthetic microorganisms generate energy by using parts of the visible light spectrum other than orange and red frequencies. Dunaliella Salina can tolerate very high salt concentrations that range from 0.2% to 35%. These organisms produce the carotenoid pigments, beta-carotene which gives rise to the bubblegum coloration of the lake’s water. Large amounts of halophilic bacteria and archaea are also present in the salt crusts of the lake which can also be the cause of the lake’s color. These non-algal microorganisms also produce a similar carotenoid pigment within their cell membranes which can also be the reason for the lake’s coloration.
The Extreme Microbiome Project, which is a part of the Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities (ABRF), Metagenomics Research Group has also been performed on the lake. The researchers used a metagenomic analysis on the lake to find Dunaliella and Salinibacter Ruber, Dechloromonas Aromatica and few other species of Archaea. Bacteria and Archaea make up the micro-ecology of the hypersaline lakes like Hillier.
It is not the only pink lake in the world; there is another one on the coast of Senegal called Lake Retba. This lake was the finish line for the Dakar Rally road race and is frequently used to harvest salt by local villagers. Rebta’s color is very prominent during the dry season and less evident during the rainy seasons. The same species of microalgae is present in Rebta which is present in Hillier.
It is perfectly safe to swim in the lake. Despite the color, the water is clear and doesn’t cause any harm to skin or the person himself. There are no fish to worry about in the pink lake. The algae are entirely harmless. however, you cannot drink the water anyway. The lake was previously used for salt extraction, but now it has become a tourist attraction.
The lake was discovered by the British Navigator and Cartographer, Mathew Flinders, in 1802. In his log, he wrote that he was surprised to see a ‘small lake of rose color.’ He named the lake after his crew member William Hillier who deceased of dysentery while docked at the island. Captain Flinders log states, “In the north-eastern part was a small lake of a rose color, the water of which, as I was informed by Mr. Thistle who visited it, was so saturated with salt that sufficient quantities were crystallized near the shores to load a ship. The specimen he brought on board was of good quality and required no other process than drying to be fit for use.”
The water of this lake is not drinkable since it has a high salt content which put a strain on the body’s natural ability to stabilize sodium and chloride levels. This shrinks the cells of your body, and your kidneys will try to correct the problem by producing excess urine. This can only work if the urine is less salty than saltwater which can lead to losing more water and can, therefore, cause dehydration.