|Location||Goldfields-Esperance, Western Australia|
|Designation||Recherche Archipelago Nature Reserve|
|Max. length||600 m (2,000 ft)|
|Max. width||250 m (820 ft)|
|Surface area||15 ha (37 acres)|
Lake Hillier is a saline lake on the edge of Middle Island, the largest of the islands and islets that make up the Recherche Archipelago in the Goldfields-Esperance region, off the south coast of Western Australia. It is particularly notable for its pink colour. A long and thin shore divides the Southern Ocean from the lake.
Lake Hillier is about 600 metres (2,000 ft) in length by about 250 m (820 ft) in width. The lake is surrounded by a rim of sand and a dense woodland of paperbark and eucalyptus trees with a narrow strip of sand dunes covered by vegetation separating its northern edge from the northern coast of Middle Island. The most notable feature of the lake is its pink colour. The vibrant colour is permanent, and does not alter when the water is taken in a container. The pink colour is considered to be due to the presence of the organism Dunaliella salina. The Extreme Microbiome Project, part of the Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities (ABRF), Metagenomics Research Group (MGRG), has performed a metagenomic analysis on the lake to find Dunaliella as well as Salinibacter ruber, Dechloromonas aromatica, and a few species of the Archaea. Air is the best mode of transportation for viewing the lake.
European discovery and use
Lake Hillier was visited by the Matthew Flinders' expedition on 15 January 1802. Flinders' journal entries are considered to be the first written records of the lake. Flinders observed the pink lake after ascending the island's highest peak (now called Flinders Peak), describing the lake as follows:
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. The specimen he brought on board was of a good quality, and required no other process than drying to be fit for use.
Flinders visited Middle Island again in May 1803; he intended “to stop a day or two in Goose-Island Bay, for the purposes of procuring geese for our sick people, seal oil for our lamps, and a few casks of salt from the lake on Middle Island”. It is reported that Flinders subsequently named the lake after William Hillier, a crew member of Investigator who died of dysentery on 20 May 1803 prior to the expedition's departure from Middle Island.
In 1889, Edward Andrews investigated the commercial possibilities of producing salt from Lake Hillier, and briefly moved onto the island with both of his sons. They left after working the salt deposits for about one year.
The lake was subject to salt mining during the late 19th century. The salt mining enterprise is reported as failing for a number of reasons including “the toxicity of the salt collected for consumption”.
Forms of life
The only living organisms in Lake Hillier are microorganisms including Dunaliella salina, which causes the salt content in the lake to create a red dye which helps produce the colour, as well as red halophilic bacteria present in the salt crusts. Despite the unusual hue, the lake exhibits no known adverse effects upon humans. From above, the lake appears a solid bubble gum pink, but from the shoreline it appears more of a clear pink hue. The shoreline is also covered in salt crust deposits.
Safety and accessibility
Despite the high salt content levels (comparable to those of the Dead Sea), Lake Hillier is safe to swim in. However, there are very few ways to reach Lake Hillier. Helicopter is one of the most common methods of travel. Cruises are also an option for passengers wanting to visit the isolated lake, and surrounding forest area.
Protected area status
As recently as 2012, Lake Hillier has been located within the boundaries of the Recherche Archipelago Nature Reserve. Since 2002, the lake itself has been considered to be a wetland of “subregional significance”.
- "Guide to Asia - Lake Hillier - Australia". 2004. Archived from the original on 23 August 2006. Retrieved 31 August 2008.
- "Lake Hillier". Retrieved 2 March 2015.
- "Ten Random Facts - Lake Hillier". 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
- A guide to managing and restoring wetlands in Western Australia (PDF). Department of Environment and Conservation. 2012. pp. 18–19. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
- Heger, Monica (March 7, 2016). "Extreme Microbiome Project Aims to Characterize Microbes Living in Harsh Environments". genomeweb. Retrieved March 11, 2016.
- Flinders, Matthew (1966) . A Voyage to Terra Australis : undertaken for the purpose of completing the discovery of that vast country, and prosecuted in the years 1801, 1802, and 1803 in His Majesty's ship the Investigator, and subsequently in the armed vessel Porpoise and Cumberland Schooner; with an account of the shipwreck of the Porpoise, arrival of the Cumberland at Mauritius, and imprisonment of the commander during six years and a half in that island. (Facsimile ed.). Adelaide; Facsimile reprint of: London : G. and W. Nicol, 1814 ed. In two volumes, with an Atlas (3 volumes): Libraries Board of South Australia. pp. 200–202. Archived from the original on 2014-03-04. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
- Flinders, Matthew (1966). A voyage to Terra Australis undertaken for the purpose of completing the discovery of that vast country, and prosecuted in the years 1801, 1802 and 1803, in his majesty's ship the Investigator, and subsequently in the armed vessel Porpoise and Cumberland schooner. With an account of the shipwreck of the Porpoise, arrival of the Cumberland at Mauritius, and imprisonment of the commander during six years and a half in that island. By Matthew Flinders Commander of the Investigator. In 2 volumes with an atlas. Volume 2. London: 1814 [Facsimile Edition, 1966] printed by W. Bulmer and Co. Cleveland row, and published by G. And W. Nicol, booksellers to his Majesty, pall-mall. G. and W. Nicol. p. Book 2, Chapter 10. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
- Green, Jeremy; Souter, Corioli; Baker, Patrick (2001). "Department of Maritime Archaeology Visit to Middle Island, Recherche Archipelago, Esperance, 29 April–4 May 2001, Report–Department of Maritime Archaeology Western Australian Maritime Museum No. 154" (PDF). Western Australian Maritime Museum. p. 7. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
- Alistair Paterson and Corioli Souter (April 2006). "Report on historical archeological expedition to Middle and Boxer Islands, Recherche Archipelago" (PDF). Western Australian Museum. p. 12. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- "The story of the Middle Island Boys" (PDF). Esperance Island Cruises. Retrieved 18 July 2015.[dead link]
- Esperance and Recherche parks and reserves draft management plan 2012 (PDF). Department of Environment and Conservation, Government of Western Australia. October 2012. pp. 68 & 133. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- "Swim in Lake Hillier, Australia". Retrieved 2 March 2015.
- Esperance and Recherche parks and reserves draft management plan 2012 (PDF). Department of Environment and Conservation, Government of Western Australia. October 2012. pp. 15 & 108. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- A Biodiversity Audit of Western Australia’s 53 Biogeographical Subregions in 2002 (PDF). Department of Conservation and Land Management. 2003. p. 211. ISBN 0 7307 5534 7. Retrieved 1 March 2015.