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Lake Disappointment

19 October 2018

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The Copernicus Sentinel-2A satellite takes us over Lake Disappointment in northwest Australia with this image captured on 1 April 2017. Found in one of the most remote areas of the country, it is believed to have been discovered by an early explorer called Frank Hann in 1897. He was convinced that the series of creeks that he had been following in the east Pilbara area would lead to a freshwater lake and drinking water supply. Such was his disappointment to find a salt lake at the end of his journey, he gave the lake its memorable name.

Although the lake is dry most of the time, it is home to many species of water birds. When it is full, primarily during very wet periods, the lake retains water and allows no outflow and is hence classified as an endorheic basin.

In this false-colour image, the differences in the shades of blue in the lake reflect the depth of the water. The darker the blue, the deeper the water is. A higher concentration of salt might also explain the different colours of the water round the edges of the lake.

It is likely that the red lines spread across the top part of the image represent some form of vegetation in this predominantly arid area on the edge of the Gibson Desert. Karlamilyi National Park, Western Australia's largest and most remote national park, can be found north of the lake. The park spans over 1.3 million hectares between the Great Sandy Desert and the Little Sandy Desert.

Covering an area of almost 380 000 sq km, the Shire of East Pilbara, also to the north of the lake, is the third largest municipality in the world. The population was registered as only around 11 000 in 2017, with mining constituting the backbone of the local economy.

The Sentinel-2 mission for Europe's Copernicus programme is tasked with monitoring our changing lands. Designed specifically to monitor vegetation, it can also detect differences in sparsely vegetated areas, as well as the mineral composition of soil.

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