Onyx River Facts
- Despite its name, the Onyx River is not a true river. It is, in fact, a meltwater stream in the continent of Antarctica.
- There are no true rivers on the continent. However, its geological uniqueness, along with that of other meltwater streams in Antarctica, makes them rivers.
- The Onyx River is the largest, and most ecologically important of the nine semi-permanent meltwater streams present on Antarctica.
- All of them appear only during the few short months of the Antarctic summer season.
- Although it remains considered a river, no fish live in its waters. However, it does support microscopic life, and algae blooms within its waters can sometimes be quite extensive.
Onyx River Description and Nature
When it is present, the Onyx River flows westward through the Wright Valley and originates from the melting water of the Wright Lower Glacier, in Antarctica.
Interestingly, this beautiful yet freezing flow of meltwater does not flow into the ocean. The Onyx River is an excellent example of what is popular as endorheic drainage, and its final destination is Lake Vanda.
The total length of the river is approximately 20 mi (32 km). Winding along its course, it also forms several smaller tributaries.
Multiple monitoring stations exist along its length, to study and monitor its impact on the surrounding environment.
Onyx River Monitoring
The Onyx River serves as one of the many sites studied by the United States Antarctic Program of the National Science Foundation.
The brine flow has an important ecological impact on the surrounding area, thus monitoring it remains of importance.
The Antarctica New Zealand program also previously maintained a semi-permanent camp at Lake Vanda which has since been removed.
A small research shelter still exists at Lake Vanda at its eastern end. Nearby is the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty seismic station at Bull Pass.