Blood Falls Facts
- Blood Falls is an extraordinarily unique wonder of geology. It is an outpouring of melting salt water, which flows from a point on the Taylor Glacier.
- From there, the Blood Falls pour onto the frozen surface of West Lake Bonney which is in McMurdo Dry Valley, in the eastern section of Antarctica.
- This feature is famous for its constant blood red color.
- The same processes which form this wonder of nature serve to make Blood Falls of extraordinary interest to microbiologists.
- It is also of great interest to astrobiologists, who study it as a means of evaluating the possibility of life’s existence in harsh environments on other planets.
Blood Falls Geochemical Formation
The falls is an outpouring of iron-rich, hypersaline water which flows from small fractures in the layers of ice.
The source of the water is a subglacial pool, lying beneath approximately 1,300 ft (400 m) of ice. This pool sits about 2 mi (3.2 km) from the point where it emerges from the ice.
The precise size of the pool which spawns the Blood Falls also remains undetermined. Beneath the glacier, and between it and the underlying rock layer, is a region of brine with such a high saline level that it has remained liquid.
Rather high concentrations of ferric oxide within the deposit create the unique color.
Blood Falls Microbial Ecosystem
Due to its inherently unique development, Blood Falls also contains an incredible ecosystem of its own. Within its depths, autotrophic bacteria evolved and those actually metabolize ferric materials and sulfates for nourishment. In simple language, that is like eating iron.
An analysis of the water of the falls shows it contains at least 17 different species of microbes, and virtually no oxygen. Further, these microbes utilize sulfates as a catalyst for respiration.
Blood Falls is the only known place on earth where a form of life utilizing this metabolic process has been discovered. The rather amazing location presents scientists with the ability to study such a unique ecosystem thankfully without the need to drill down to it.