Photo Friday: The Science Behind Blood Falls’ Unusual Coloring

This Photo Friday, enjoy stunning photos of Blood Falls – an unusual glacial tongue off of Taylor Glacier in East Antarctica. Far from the typical, pristinely white colors of glaciers, Blood Falls sports a trickling red tongue, sometimes invoking its namesake in blood red, other times in a fainter, more subtle burnt orange. Check out the photos below.

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Blood Falls’ unruly color is caused not by red algae, as early Antarctic pioneers once believed, but by iron-rich, hypersaline water buried deep below the glacier. This saltwater originates in a subglacial pool (of unknown size) that sits below thick, 400 meter-thick ice. This iron- and salt-rich water sporadically emerges from small fissures in the thick ice. Upon contact with air, the iron ions immediately oxidize, which creates their vibrant, red color. Check out this article from Science Daily and Ohio State University for a more detailed explanation. 

Griffith Taylor, an Australian geologist that was the first to explore (and name) the Taylor Valley region, discovered Blood Falls in 1911.

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