World’s Most Colorful Aerial Landscape

If you have ever flown into the San Francisco Airport during the day and looked down you likely saw one of the World’s most uniquely colored landscapes. The brilliant green, blue and bright red colors have been used as visual markers by astronauts from space.

Cargill for many years has been harvesting salt from sea water in the South Bay of San Francisco. The process begins by flooding ponds with sea water and ends some five years later with a product that is usable as table salt. As the water evaporates from each holding pond the brine/water is moved through the process from pond concentrator to pond concentrator, the water morphs from its original blue green color to a bright red.

The bright red color begins about halfway through the five year process and is the result of the ever increasing salinity of the brine/water which is a medium promoting the growth and support of blue green algae and an enormous population of brine shrimp. These shrimp are the reason for the bright red color and is certainly a contributor to the pink color of the Chilean Flamingo that may still be in the Bay area after escaping from a local zoo a few years ago. The flamingo’s color is derived from carotenoid pigments found in the brine shrimp.

Although much of the Bay is in the process of being restored back to its roots, as tidal wetlands, there remains enough salt production to provide those passing over with a magnificent color display.