6. The Mystery Of Blood Falls
In 1911, geographer Thomas Griffith Taylor came upon a curious course of water flowing from the tongue of Taylor Glacier in East Antarctica. It earned the name Blood Falls due to its ruddy color, which puzzled scientists for over a century.
Initially, people believed the coloration was due to red algae. However, this was disproved, and researchers realized it was iron oxides that turned the water red, although they weren’t sure how or why until 2017. A joint study between Colorado College and University of Alaska Fairbanks used radio-echo sounding radar to discover that the waterfall was connected to a large source of briny water which could have been trapped under Taylor Glacier for over one million years.
Due to the high concentration of salts, the 91-meter (300 ft) path of brine stood out well against the fresh ice surrounding it. However, researchers were astounded to find liquid water at all, something they thought impossible inside an extremely cold icy mass. In fact, Taylor Glacier is now the coldest known glacier to have persistently flowing water.
The discovery has particularly intriguing implications for astrobiologists, who consider harsh environments like that of Blood Falls similar to what we might encounter on other worlds such as Jupiter’s moon, Europa. It provides them relatively easy access to extremophiles without having to drill through ice caps, potentially contaminating intact environments.