Scientists first discovered this waterfall in Antarctica that runs red as blood. They attributed the bloody red color to algae in the water. They couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Blood Falls Antarctica Explained
Let’s unravel the mystery of the bleeding waterfall in Antarctica.
What’s so special about the Blood Falls in Antarctica?
Two things make the Blood Falls a natural and geological wonder. The first and most obvious cause for its hype is the bright red color of the water that gushes out of a fissure in Taylor Glacier’s surface. The water supply comes from a frozen lake beneath the glacier, and the water of this lake is red in color. The color makes it look like it is blood gushing out of a wound. However, it is not blood. It’s something entirely different.
The second reason why the Blood Falls stuns and shocks scientists and the general population alike is the liquid form of the water. In Antarctica’s below-freezing-point temperatures, next to no glacial melting is possible. The fact that the water does not freeze even at -17 degrees Celcius is no less than a miracle.
What causes the blood falls in Antarctica?
As previously believed, the Blood Falls is not due to red algae or real blood gushing from the fissure in Taylor Glacier. Instead, it is due to the contents of the lake water. The lake has been trapped under Taylor Glacier for over 2 million years. The lake has been home to microbes that can survive in no heat and light during these years.
The lake water is highly salinated and contains large quantities of iron. The iron gives the blood waterfall its red color, whereas the high concentration of salt in the water enables it to flow while the rest of the glacier remains frozen.
Why does the bleeding glacier in Antarctica never freeze?
We know that the lake beneath the Taylor Glacier has a high concentration of salt mixed in water, also called brine. The glacier is made of pure water, which is why it freezes before the saltwater. It is a well-known fact that pure water has a higher freezing point than saltwater. This means that saltwater requires a colder temperature than pure water. The saltwater, on the other hand, dissipates heat energy when it freezes.
For this reason, when the brine under the glacier freezes, it releases heat that melts the ice around it. Hence, the water flows out of the glacier as a liquid. This phenomenon is also responsible for all subglacial rivers and lakes beneath the glacier that carry brine and iron into the Blood Falls.
The marvel of Blood Falls
The bloody waterfall is no less than a miracle of nature. It is the coldest glacier in the world that carries and supports running water. The existence of 17 types of microbes in the freezing, saline water also opened the gates for astrobiological expeditions. Scientists found that Mars, Titan, and Europa have similar natural conditions to the lake in Taylor Glacier. The presence of microbes is a sign that life can exist outside the Earth.
The discovery and exploration of the Blood Falls in Antarctica is just one step towards learning more about our planet and the universe. It has opened the doors to several possibilities that are under study by scientists at the moment.