Pretty as a picture
Think pink. Not hot pink, or baby pink, but more of a raspberry pink. What am I talking about? A pink lake! Yes, that’s right. Come and marvel at Melbourne’s pink lake. Located in Port Melbourne, Westgate Park Lake is pretty in pink. You won’t believe it until you see it. Curious? Read on to find out more.
Melbourne is privileged to have one of these rare coloured lakes. It looks like someone has tipped a whole lot of food dye in it. But, in actual fact the water is naturally pink. I ‘pinky swear’. Located right near the banks of the Yarra River and under the Westgate Bridge, what a gorgeous sight to behold as you drive on the Westgate Freeway. I was absolutely ‘tickled pink’ to see it. Too much? Sorry.
This area on the edge of the city used to be a derelict wasteland. Situated right in the industrial part of Melbourne this man-made lake was established in the 1980’s after the bridge was completed. Now, it’s a wetland and nature park with many species of wildlife flourishing, including black swans and pelicans. This amazing spectacle draws lots of people here to take photos, hang-out and marvel at this beautiful water. My photos have not been photoshopped; this is the real colour.
Why is it pink?
It’s a special recipe that makes the lake turn a pink. Firstly, the water has a very high quantity of salt. Secondly, plenty of hot weather is needed. Then, add lots of sunshine and lastly, no rainfall for a while.
What happens then is something quite magical. A particular type of algae called D. salina grows in these conditions and thrives in the salt crust at the bottom of the lake. A pigment called beta-carotene is produced as part of the photosynthesis process, which gives the lovely pink hue to the water. There is also halobacterium, which is harmless, in the water which reacts with the algae. It’s a delicate combination of all these factors together that gives the water its rare colour.
The colour intensifies as the water evaporates and the amount of salt increases. So the lake can get very bright.
Can you swim in it?
I think you probably could swim in this pink lake, but the Melbourne water authority does not allow swimming in it. They say it’s not deemed safe due to the very high level of salt which can cause skin irritation. They don’t want you to even touch the water at all, or go too close to the edge because they want to preserve the area. But it sure does look tempting. A salt spa scrub sounds like a very invigorating experience. Don’t you agree?
Is it always pink?
No. The lake only turns pink in warm, dry weather. In Autumn some time, when the weather cools down, it will return to its normal brown colour. Rainfall will dilute the water and the colour.
Interesting fact: Flamingoes are pink for the same reason, because they eat algae and shrimp which are high in beta-carotene too.
Are there others?
If you haven’t heard of pink lakes before, it may surprise you to know that they are a worldwide phenomena which exist in quite a few countries, such as Bolivia, Canada, France, Russia, Senegal, Spain, Tanzania and Turkey.
But Australia actually has more than 10 pink lakes. Yes indeed. Several are in South Australia and Western Australia. Victoria has more pink lakes too; at the Murray-Sunset National Park there are 4 pink lakes which are more rosy pink in colour.
I was amazed to learn how many pink lakes exist in the world.
What makes other lakes pink?
Other pink lakes in the world seem to have similar conditions. They all have high levels of salt, almost 10 times that of the ocean, algae, and are dependent on the weather. But they can vary in colour – some turning more orange or purple.
Some pink lakes around the world have so much salt that it is harvested and traded, such as the one in Russia on the Crimean Peninsula.
Mother nature really is fascinating. Make sure you get a chance to see a pink lake for yourself.
Snazzy Tip: In order to see Melbourne’s pink lake at its best, you need to visit in warm, sunny weather, when there’s been little rain. If you go in cold weather, it probably won’t be pink.
Have you seen Melbourne’s pink lake? Or another pink lake? I’d love to hear about it. Leave your comments below.