Where there’s water, Algae is supposed to exist. Such was the case when red water was discovered at the foot of a glacier in Antarctica. Hence, it was named “Blood falls”.
Discovery Of Blood Falls
Griffith Taylor, an Australian Geologist, was the one to discover the existence of ‘Red’ water that seeped out from the foot of a glacier which was then unnamed. This happened in 1911.
The scientists of that era declared the existence of this scarlet waterfall as the presence of red-hued algae as it was always supposed that algae were born wherever there was water.
Owing to this discovery, the entire glacier was hence named after its discoverer as “The Taylor Glacier”.
Stretching over 62 miles, Blood falls are situated to the North of Taylor Glacier. This happens to be in the area of Trans-antarctic Mountains.
How Does Water Not Freeze?
Basically, there are two kinds of glaciers in Glaciology. One, ‘wet-based’ glaciers and the other, ‘cold-based’ glaciers.
Taylor glacier is a ‘cold-based’ glacier, meaning it is frozen till its roots, completely. The, how does water even flow, right? Mysterious Nature, eh?
Scientists held ‘heat’ and ‘surface impurities’ accountable in order to explain the reason for flowing water. Water contains soluble impurities such as salt and such water freezes below its normal freezing point. When this brine solution freezes a certain amount of heat, known as ‘Latent heat of Freezing’, is produced that is just sufficient to melt a minute portion of ice into water.
An interesting fact is that this water took millions of years to form under the thick ice cover of the coldest glacier in the world.
Why Is The Water Red In Color?
The answer to this question has stages.
1911 report – presence of red hued algae, which was ruled out later in 2003
2003 report – Absence of red algae and water is red due to the presence of a chemical component known as “Iron oxide” or most commonly termed as “Rust”.
2015 report – Brine solution rich in iron components reacts with oxygenated air to form Iron oxide, thus giving it a reddish tint. Also, an assumption was made public that these waterfalls were an outlet to under-glacier stored water. But, this wasn’t proved then.
2017 report – Proved the existence of a channelized flow to which the outlet was “Blood falls”.
How Was The Existence Of Channelized Flow Proved?
A study was conducted by University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and Colorado College that proved the existence of a highly concentrated and pressurized Brine Lake underneath the thick cover of glacial ice. As we all know that continents expand and break as time progresses, Taylor glacier too went through a phase of ‘extension’.
A million years ago, as it extended across Antarctica, a small saltwater lake got trapped beneath its layers of hard snow. With no chance to escape, the confined water became concentrated as time passed till it couldn’t freeze anymore at the existing temperatures of Antarctica.
Thousands of decades later, when the pressure of staying inside the glacier became uncontrollable, small fissures or holes took birth to the Northern end of this glacier thus causing an eruption of water that instead flowed like a cold volcano.
All this information was sensed through RES technology (Radio Echo Sounding), a radar system that uses two antennas to transmit electric pulses and to receive them. It was a kind of “Echolocation” technique used by a Bat.
The brine river flows through a 300-meter (985-foot) path of pressurized channels before oozing out as Blood falls.
Did You Know That There Is Life Trapped Underneath Taylor Glacier?
For millions of years, Microbes or anaerobic bacteria lived under Taylor Glacier. These bacteria do not require oxygen to live and they solely feed on ‘Sulphate’ content. This produces Sulphite, which in turn reacts with Iron components to form Sulphate. In this way, these Bacteria have an unending supply of food amidst the dark and non-oxygenated conditions.
The study of adverse living conditions on Earth might lead to a better understanding of “Life on other planets” like Mars, Saturn and Jupiter.
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