Blood Falls: 106-Year-Old Mystery in Antarctica Finally Unraveled by Science - Media News 48

Blood Falls: 106-Year-Old Mystery in Antarctica Finally Unraveled by Science

Recently, a group of researchers from two US universities, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the University of Colorado, announced that they had deciphered the century-old mystery of “Blood Falls” in Antarctica.

Discovered by English geologist Griffith Taylor (1880-1963) in 1911, Taylor Valley (named after him) in southeast Antarctica has become one of the most challenging regions for explorers and scientists.

In this isolated valley, there is a strange waterfall that is red like blood, which many scientists call “Blood Falls.” Over the past 100 years, many explanations have been proposed.

At the time of discovery, geologist Griffith Taylor believed that the red color of the water was due to a type of algae. Later, explorers and scientists theorized that about 1.5 million years ago, there was a saltwater lake containing iron, which was covered by ice.

New discovery at “Blood Falls” in Antarctica

But the story has changed with the discovery by researcher Jessica Badgeley (from the University of Colorado) and glaciologist Erin Pettit and colleagues (from the University of Alaska Fairbanks). Using specialized equipment, the researchers have discovered a completely new secret at a lake located 400 meters below the ice.

Jessica Badgeley explains: “The red saltwater is an ecosystem of ancient microbes that have been trapped for millions of years beneath the Earth’s surface. Despite no sunlight, temperatures reaching -5°C, and salinity three times that of seawater, these microbes are a rare autotrophic bacteria on Earth.”

The red color of “Blood Falls” is the result of iron oxide precipitating when salty water containing unstable iron oxide comes into contact with oxygen in the air.

In the summer, the temperature in Antarctica is warmer, which allows the lake water to rise. This is why we can see the strange and constant flow of “Blood Falls” to this day.

Glaciologist Erin Pettit adds: “With equipment that listens for echoes from the lake beneath a 400-meter-thick ice sheet, similar to how bats use their ears to ‘see’ things in the dark, we ‘saw’ what was happening at this salty, dark lake.”

It is amazing to discover a liquid lake existing below a layer of frozen ice that is below 0°C. The interesting thing is that this lake containing iron is extremely salty, which prevents it from freezing. And that liquid lake has become an ecosystem for ancient autotrophic bacteria to live in.”

This discovery helps astronomers to evaluate the conditions for life on other planets.

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