Blood Falls

Wanderlust

So, this is rather embarrassing. After making a big deal about ‘officially being back’ and ‘not missing another post’, the next day I went and missed a post. Things are not off to a good start.

But in my defense I have been sick for the past couple days! Why do illnesses always have to spring up at the most inconvenient times? Aaanyways, I’m here to make up my missed Tuesday Destination of the Week!

While I’m generally a fan of locations that feature sparkling water, white sand and swaying palm trees, this singular landmark caught my eye. It’s more than a little eerie, but this particular spot and all its eccentricities begged to be featured!

Yes, the above image pictures a naturally occurring waterfall located in Taylor Valley, Anarctica. It’s called ‘Blood Falls’ and is, as you can see, rather aptly named. It was discovered in 1911 by geologist Griffith Taylor, and I can only imagine what an unnerving sight it must have been. If you look closely at the above picture you can spot a colorful, striped object in the lower left-hand corner; this would be a tent, which puts the size of the falls into perspective.

It’s the iron oxide in the water that gives it its distinct hue. There are sixteen forms of iron oxide known to man, rust being the most common. Fun fact, it’s also often used in society as a pigment! 🙂 The source of the waterfall is a subglacial pool buried beneath 400 meters of ice, which winds its way to the Taylor Glacier and then into Lake Bonney.

I’m not a big science person, but if biology is your cup of tea you might be interested to know that Blood Falls houses a rare subglacial ecosystem of autotrophic bacteria (yes, that was pretty much copied word-for-word from Wikipedia). These bacteria metabolize sulfate and ferric ions (also from Wikipedia!). Apparently the water in Blood Falls contains nearly no oxygen, which is apparently perplexing as it brings up the question of how these microbes are completing the process of respiration. Scientists suggest that the microbes use  (I’m just gonna put this one in quotes) “sulfate as a catalyst to respire with ferric ions and metabolize the trace levels of organic matter trapped with them (Wikipedia).” I only bring this up because my dear friend Wikipedia goes on to state that this is apparently the only known natural location where this sort of process has been seen.

So while it’s probably not worth it to plan an entire trip to Antarctica around one rust-colored waterfall, if you, I don’t know, happen to drop by (?) it’d definitely be a sight worth seeing!

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