And the answer is: Australia.
Lake Hillier can be found off the south coast of Western Australia, on Middle Island. The island is used mainly for research purposes, and travelers can only view the lake from the air via helicopter. Scientists have theorized that the lake's algae and salt-loving bacteria give the water its signature color, and also make up the bulk of living organisms within it.
In 1802, British explorer Matthew Flinders didn’t need rose-colored glasses to spot something unusually pink on the horizon of the Southern Ocean. Named in honor of a crew member lost to dysentery, Flinders and his crew were the first Europeans to spot and investigate the strange, pink water of Lake Hillier. After climbing Middle Island’s highest peak—now named Flinders Peak—the explorer recorded:
“In the north-eastern part was a small lake of a rose colour, the water of which, as I was informed by Mr. Thistle who visited it, was so saturated with salt that sufficient quantities were crystallised near the shores to load a ship.”
What’s more: by bottling and canning the water, Flinders and his crew discovered that the unique color persisted even when separated from its larger body, suggesting that the pigment must exist within the content of the water itself. Even without access to modern tests and data, Flinders could be certain that Lake Hillier’s pink water was no trick of the light.
A number of theories surround the formation of this vibrant lake. Most scientists agree that the specific microalgae which thrives in the highly-salinated waters of Lake Hillier, Dunaliella Salina, is one of the leading causes of its pink color. These microalgae produce pigments called carotenoids: pigments that are responsible for the bright colors of vegetables such as carrots and tomatoes. However, the large amount of bacteria living in the salty waters likely also contribute to Lake Hillier’s pink color. These microorganisms produce a similar carotenoid pigment which is a leading cause of the lake’s overall coloration.
Did you know?
The same pigments responsible for Lake Hillier’s unique hue are also attributed to making flamingos pink! Carotenoids are abundant in the types of miniscule shrimp that flamingos enjoy. Evidently, they’d blend right in at Lake Hillier (maybe a little too well…).
Learn more about Lake Hillier here.