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STATES CHRONICLE – Researchers managed to solve the mystery of the blood falls in Antarctica. Even if everyone expects to see only white landscapes in Antarctica, they should know that at Taylor Glacier the landscape turns into red. The 34-mile-long polar glacier displays a red deposit of iron-rich water which flows into West Lake Bonney. For many years, this area was a mystery for scientists around the world.
The red color of the Blood Falls is giving by the iron in the water which become red when in contact with the air
Griffin Taylor was the first to reveal this frozen blood falls in the early 1900s. At first, he believed that this color was given by some algae which were proof that, despite the freezing temperature, the environment can support life. Nevertheless, in 2003, scientists have established that the red hue came from a salty water and iron pulling from an ancient lake, estimated to be 1.5 million years old.
When the glacier was extending across the continent a long time ago, it encapsulated a saltwater lake under numerous thick layers of ice and snow. The concentration of the salt water increased and the brine has gradually become too salty and could not freeze at regular temperatures. The subglacial lake has been scratching iron from the underneath bedrock, giving the flow a rusty red color.
The Blood Falls formed due to salty water and iron coming from a lake underneath the Taylor Glacier
The water would turn red because the iron came in contact with the air. A new study developed by researchers at the Colorado College and the University of Alaska Fairbanks indicated that by using radio-echo sounding, they identified the source from which the water came. This technique helped them identify that beneath this glacier there is more than just a lake.
The Taylor Glacier hides its unique water system which most likely is functioning for more than a million years. The flowing water can exist in this glacier due to its level of saltiness which triggers the water to have a lower freezing temperature. Thus, the continuous blood falls’ flow is possible. Christina Carr, a doctoral student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, stated that the Taylor Glacier is the coldest glacier ever known which has this persistent flow of water.
Blood Falls is situated at the northern end of the massive glacier which lies over 62 miles through the Transantarctic Mountains. The new study can help researchers understand better the geochemical evolution and the microbial environment of the brine.
Image source: wikipedia