Central Australian yacht club

Lake Eyre, in the middle of the Australian Outback, is only a lake when it floods. And when that happens, people like to sail yachts on it.

Lake Eyre
Jussarian / CC BY-SA

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while – ever since I read about endorheic basins while composing saltiest ponds – but I held off because I ran into a bit of a milkshake duck.

A milkshake duck, if you’re unfamiliar with the reference, is “a person or character on social media that appears to be endearing at first, but is found to have an unappealing back story.” It comes from this evergreen tweet:

The whole internet loves Milkshake Duck, a lovely duck that drinks milkshakes! *5 seconds later* We regret to inform you the duck is racist.

Source: @pixelatedboat on Twitter

So I was reading about the Lake Eyre basin, a huge depression in Australia that takes up roughly one-sixth of the continent’s land area. It includes the lowest point in the continent and many rivers drain into the basin… when the rivers are actually flowing.

Because Australia is so arid, most of the time the rivers are dry and the basin contains only a smattering of isolated lakes. The rest of the land at the centre of the basin is covered in salt flats.

When it rains enough, the rivers flood in and Lake Eyre appears. It’s the largest lake in Australia… when it exists at all. Lake Eyre is roughly the size of Cyprus.

So, of course, there are people just waiting to sail on this temporary lake. The Lake Eyre Yacht Club deploys sailboats and does a little regatta – something they can only do the years that there is a lake to sail on.

I thought this was cute and endearing, but there’s a problem. The area is traditional Aboriginal land and they don’t really want people sailing on it. The spokespeople of the yacht club are, of course, unhappy about this, and their website is very clear about their complaints. No, I won’t link to it here; instead, enjoy the link below mapping the Aboriginal cultures of the Lake Eyre Basin area.


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