Onyx River Facts
- Perhaps most notably, despite its common name, the Onyx River does not actually qualify as a true river. In point of fact, the quite remarkable manifestation of geology actually represents a feature known as a meltwater stream. Furthermore, this site remains located in a remote portion of the world. Therefore, few people ever see it.
- In addition, this rather surprising fact stands out in the minds of many for a very unique reason. That’s interesting the fact that no true rivers exist anywhere on the entire continent. However, its geological uniqueness, along with that of other meltwater streams in Antarctica, makes these rare occurrences qualify as rivers.
- Further, the small but lovely Onyx River remains by far the largest of the nine semi-permanent meltwater streams present on the remote continent. Additionally, the site also serves as the most ecologically important of the nine. Unfortunately, all of them appear only during the few short months of the local summer season.
- However, although the incredible body of water remains considered a river, albeit a small one, no fish live in its waters. Regardless of this fact, its waters do support a remarkably diverse assortment of microscopic life. Finally, the fascinating algae blooms that often form within its waters can sometimes be quite extensive.
Onyx River Physical Description
First of all, given its highly unique nature, the physical characteristics of the Onyx River understandably vary. But, when present, the small body of water flows westward through the Wright Valley. It also originates from the melting water of the Wright Lower Glacier, itself an astounding location.
Yet, it also conceals another surprising fact. Quite interestingly, this beautiful yet freezing flow of meltwater does not flow into the ocean. The small river represents an excellent example of what is popularly known as endorheic drainage. This means the river it has no naturally occurring outflow to the ocean.
Along with numerous other factors, its dimensions vary from season to seson. Yet, some measurements remain roughly the same during the time it does appear. The total length of the river measures about 20 mi (32 km). Winding along its course, it also forms several smaller, equally fascinating tributaries.
Additionally, when it does make its appearances, the final destination of the Onyx River remains the body of water known as Lake Vanda. Multiple monitoring stations exist along its length, to study and monitor its impact on the surrounding environment. Some seasons, the water evaporate before it reaches the lake.
Onyx River Monitoring and Importance
The remarkable Onyx River, despite its high degree of variability, in fact serves as one of the most interesting features in its area. As difficult as it may be to imagine, this marvel of Nature appears in what may be considered the least likely location. That’s on the continent of Antarctica.
Furthermore, the wonder of Nature also constitutes a region of particular and ongoing scientific interest. Due to this fact, the river serves as one of the many sites studied by the United States Antarctic Program of the National Science Foundation. This program continues to be ongoing.
Also, the Antarctica New Zealand program also previously maintained a semi-permanent camp at Lake Vanda. But, this camp 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.
Furthermore, the unique brine flow of the Onyx River has an important ecological impact on the surrounding area. In addition to the microscopic life in its waters, a few small species also exist in it. These include nematodes. Gulls also sometimes make an appearance. Therefore, many countries believe that monitoring the site remains of great importance.