Edgar Allan Poets – Noir Rock Band | The Mystery of Antarctica's Blood Falls
The Mystery of Antarctica’s Blood Falls

Antarctica is certainly not known for the liveliness of its colors: the gray of the rock alternates monotonously with the white of the snow.

But the Taylor glacier is an exception: during the summer a spring of red water gushes from its walls, irremediably dyeing them a bright red and representing a unique spectacle in the world. They are the so-called “cascades of blood”, located in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, in eastern Antatide. Discovered in 1911 by the Australian geographer Griffith Taylor, only now has it been possible to explore the underground lake that feeds them and understand something more about it.

The Mystery of Antarctica’s Blood Falls

The falls originate from a basin rich in salt and iron, buried by the ice, whose nature and extent have remained unknown for a long time. Now a team of geologists led by microbiologist Jill Mikucki of the University of Tennessee, has made it possible to unravel this mystery. Thanks to an innovative electromagnetic sensor called SkyTEM mounted on a helicopter, it was possible to map the subsoil of the entire area, discovering a dense network of underground channels in which brackish water circulates that connects the frozen lakes of the region.

In these cold and lightless waters, despite the extreme living conditions, the cores have revealed an active microbial community. It is precisely these microorganisms that give the cascades of blood their color: their survival is in fact entrusted to the oxidation of the minerals rich in sulfur trapped in the lake. This operation produces large quantities of iron as a metabolic waste. When the ice recedes during the Antarctic summer, the waters come into contact with atmospheric oxygen, and it is precisely the oxidation of this iron that causes the waters to turn red.

The presence of bacterial activity in such a hostile environment could also have implications for the search for extraterrestrial life. “If there is life under this glacier, who tells us that there cannot also be one of Jupiter’s natural satellites below the polar ice cap of Mars or Europa?”

The Mystery of Antarctica’s Blood Falls

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