This is Lake Hart, in South Australia. It’s one of the smaller salt lakes in the Lake Eyre basin, a vast region covering a sixth of Australia. It’s a harsh landscape; the deserts of this region are thought to be the largest source of airborne dust in the southern hemisphere. Rain is intermittent, but when there is enough to create rivers they have nowhere to go as the basin does not drain into the sea. They can only flow into the many salt lakes and evaporate.
Despite being in this huge and unforgiving landscape, Lake Hart is not quite as remote as you might think. The south tip of the lake is skirted by both the Stuart Highway and the famous Ghan rail line as they head out across the stony plains and into the desert, on their 3,000 km trip from Adelaide to Darwin. In the middle of the 20th century it was mined for salt, and later the north of the lake became the centre of rocket launching and missile testing for the military base at Woomera.
All this activity aside, the lake itself is quite stunning, a pristine stretch of sparkling white under the wide blue sky. As the salt dries, it cracks into plates leaving zig-zag ridges across the surface. It is blindingly white under the hot midday sun, and the crystals crunch underfoot as you walk across the brittle crust.
Turning round to face across the lake, all signs of land disappears and the landscape becomes an alien world of blue and white. The distant shoreline becomes a dark line on the horizon. With just sky, salt and that strip of blue hill the image becomes a simple statement of space.
With a solitary plant is in shot, the image becomes a reminder of the forces of drought and salination, two issues that confront Australians as they try to balance river use for irrigation with an ecosystem suffering from severe water shortages.