The Pink Lake: Where Lake Hillier Gets It’s Strange Color From

We all know Australia is one of the most ecologically diverse and strange places on our planet. The isolated continent has given rise to several unique animals and some of the most diverse places on earth, such as the Great Barrier Reef. One of the great mysteries of Australia is its pink-watered lake, known as Lake Hillier that sits off the coast of Western Australia in an isolated island just off the coastline.

How was Pink Lake Discovered?

Lake HillierSource: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

The discovery of Australia by European explorers was followed by the nation’s coastline being mapped by the British Navy. They sent ships, including HMS Investigator to the newly discovered nation. One of those who made their way to Australia as part of the British team of explorers was Matthew Flinders. He was the cartographer on HMS Investigator who explored the coast of Western Australia and climbed the highest peak off the southern coast of the region. He first viewed what is now known as Lake Hillier.

The highest point of what is now known as the Recherche Archipelago is called Flinders Peak and takes its name from the British explorer. The middle island of the Archipelago is home to the pink waters of Lake Hillier. Many have explored and investigated the lake for its bubblegum colored waters.

Why is Lake Hiller Pink?

Lake Hillier, AustraliaSource: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

This is a difficult question to answer because no single theory has ever been proven with the range of theories being offered to explain why the waters are the color of a strawberry milkshake. Atlas Obscura reports the earliest explorers on HMS Investigator conducted some tests on the waters of Lake Hillier. They found out that it was high in salt content.

The pink color of the water has always been associated with the lake’s high salt content due to the presence of various forms of microalgae in the water. Some of these algae include the Dunaliella Salina algae and the Halobacteria that has a pink-orange color.

The Latest Research

The latest research that has been completed to solve the mystery of the pink waters of Lake Hillier has focused on the different types of extremophiles found in the lake. According to Las Cumbres Observatory, extremophiles are a form of life that developed in some of the most extreme conditions on the planet, particularly in aquatic environments.

A team from the Extreme Microbiome Project headed to Lake Hillier in 2015 to conduct the first exploration of the waters based on the presence of extremophiles, Discovery reports. The team believed the presence of extremophiles in the water could be the reason for the pink waters but wanted to find a definitive answer.

A Different Form of Bacteria

The team’s findings in 2015 followed the expected path with a range of bacteria and algae found that fit into the longheld theories. The most shocking discovery was the knowledge that a single form of a bacterium, Salinibacter ruber made up around one-third of the samples taken from Lake Hillier. Consequently, the team has decided this newly discovered form of a bacterium is the most probable cause of the pink color of the water of Lake Hillier.

Lake Hillier is truly captivating. The pink waters of the lake are a popular tourist attraction. Want to know the best part? Research shows that the water is safe to swim in and drink. 

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