Researchers Solve the Mystery Behind ‘Bleeding’ Antarctica Waterfall

Credits: National Science Foundation/Peter Rejcek

The perplexing mystery of a red-hued glacier outlet, ominously known as “Blood Falls,” has finally been unraveled decades after its initial discovery.

This eerie phenomenon first drew attention in 1911 when a British expedition to Antarctica observed a glacier that appeared to be “bleeding” onto a frozen lake, and it was aptly named Blood Falls due to its distinctive color. However, the true cause behind this unusual occurrence remained enigmatic for many years.

In 2006 and again in 2018, US scientists ventured to this peculiar site, collecting samples for thorough analysis using advanced technology and equipment. Despite previous studies focusing on the chemistry of Blood Falls and the microbes inhabiting its waters, a comprehensive mineralogical examination had not been undertaken until last year.

Thanks to cutting-edge scientific equipment, researchers were finally able to unveil the secrets concealed within Blood Falls. The minuscule particles, smaller than human red blood cells and referred to as nanospheres, were determined to have originated from ancient microbes.

These nanospheres, rich in silicon, calcium, aluminum, sodium, and iron, play a pivotal role in the transformation of the water’s color. As the water descends from the glacier and encounters sunlight, oxygen, and warmth after eons of being encased in ice, it takes on a distinctive red hue.

Beneath Taylor Glacier’s ice, an ancient microbial community resides, having evolved over centuries. This unique ecosystem holds invaluable insights for astrobiologists seeking to unearth hidden life forms on other planets.

The study also underscores the necessity of having the appropriate equipment to detect potential life on other planets, as even if it exists, it may elude human detection without the proper tools.