Mystery of Antarctica’s Blood Falls
It’s a mystery that has baffled scientists for more than a century; how salty, blood-red water is able to ooze out from a million-year-old glacier in a region known for its freezing temperatures.
When explorer and geoscientist Griffith Taylor discovered a 54-kilometre long glacier in Antarctica that released a deep red liquid in 1911, he attributed the strange phenomenon to red algae colouring the moving water.
The outflow was quickly dubbed “Blood Falls” for the water’s creepy, red hue contrasting against its icy, white surroundings.
It was later discovered, however, that the mysterious water was not related to blood or algae at all. In fact, the colour is the result of iron-rich salt water that turns into a reddish-brown shade or oxidizes (like rust) when it comes into contact with the air. Scientists call the water “brine” because of the incredible amount of salt in it.
And now, that saltiness has offered an important clue into one of Blood Fall’s final mysteries – how the brine travels from within the frozen glacier to the waterfall in sub-zero temperatures. Researchers have found that the glacier has its own unique network of pressurized channels that move the iron-rich water to the top of Blood Falls through the frozen glacier.