Australia’s Pink Lakes

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Western Australia’s Pink Lake
Credit: © Rob Bayer, Shutterstock

Maps in The World Book Encyclopedia tend to show bodies of water in blue, and, despite the many colors of water we see every day—blue, brown, gray, green, white, clear, or even iridescent—we generally accept that blue represents water. Along the south coast of Western Australia, however, two naturally pink lakes challenge that color representation. The pink lakes lie on the rugged coast near Esperance and on nearby Middle Island in the Recherche Archipelago. The traditionally blue waters of the Great Australian Bight (a large bay in the southeastern Indian Ocean) contrast strongly against the vivid pinks of the lakes.

The appropriately named Pink Lake seen above is pink only in particularly sunny and hot weather. When conditions are right, the lake blooms with colorful algae called dunaliella salina that thrive in the extremely salty waters. The algae contain carotenoids, orange-redantioxidant pigment compounds that are found in carrots and tomatoes as well. The algae cast the lake’s waters—even the sands along its shore—in a striking pink hue. Lake Hillier, located off shore on Middle Island, is perpetually bright pink. Scientists attribute its never-fading pink to just the right mixture of the same algae with extremophile microbes and lots and lots of salt. An extremophile is a living thing that grows best in environments that cannot easily support other life. Pink waters can also be found near Quairading, an inland mining town east of Perth, and at Hutt Lagoon near Geraldton on Western Australia’s west coast.

Western Australia.
Credit: WORLD BOOK map

Pink lakes are not unique to Australia. They can also be seen—if your timing is right—in Bolivia, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, and elsewhere. Don’t go looking for pink water in the so-called Red Sea, however. The water there—which separates northeastern Africa from the Arabian Peninsula—is generally the same turquoise blue you see on World Bookmaps.

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