Blood Falls is an outflow of an iron oxide tainted plume of saltwater, flowing from the tongue of Taylor Glacier onto the ice-covered surface in the Taylor Valley in Victoria Land, East Antarctica. The Blood Falls, from the name itself one can get, deep red colored glacier seems bleeding red in midst of the vast snow covered white Antarctica. The “blood” in the snow makes it quite mysterious and now slowly it’s slowly giving up its ancient secret. For the very first time, a team of scientists have taken samples from deep beneath the ice.
Back in 1911, an Australian geologist Griffith Taylor found the red colored deposit while he explored the valley. The valley has been named as Taylor Valley after Griffith Taylor’s name. In 2004, Jill Mikucki, a geomicrobiologist at the University of Tennessee and her team have sampled microbial life that contained at least 17 different types of microbes, and almost no oxygen. The scientists believe that the extremophiles find a unique way to survive in the cold, dark oxygen less place under the surface. Jill Mikucki explained that the red color is just because of the discharge of iron. The bacteria change the chemistry of the iron rich brine liquid which transforms iron and sulphur compounds to survive. It creates red hue when the liquid oxidizes at the surface.
There is possibly a reservoir that has been the residue of an ancient sea that diminished millions of years ago and trapped under the ice. The reservoir is several kilometers farther away from Blood Falls. There is a big technological challenge for sampling at the source because of the depth and location. The team focused on locating the channel through which the brine oozes from the reservoir to the surface at Blood Falls. The scientists use seismometers to image the ice and the bed rocks and even use GPS to track the movements of the glaciers.
The MIDGE (Minimally Invasive Direct Glacier Exploration) project developed a unique probe. Mikucki wants to publish her work in Science and since there is some problem, she couldn’t. She returned with the IceMole. As stated in The Antarctic Sun “The IceMole is a long rectangular metal box with a copper head and ice screw at one end capable of melting its way through ice – but not just straight down like a conventional electro-thermal drill. Differential heating at the tip allows IceMole to change directions. It looks a bit like a very large hypodermic needle poised to inoculate a glacier.”
The Blood falls in a unique place in the world that has the same things like other places yet it’s different. The ancient secret of the red blood color has been finally revealed.