Scientists have long struggled to find a plausible explanation to the baffling question surrounding the mysterious origin of the blood-red waterfall that streams down Antarctica’s Taylor Glacier. However, that’s about to change now. First spotted by geoscientist Griffith Taylor way back in 1911, the source of the creepy red flow of Blood Falls may finally have an explanation, for which the credit goes to a group of researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Colorado College.
The falls are sustained by a massive source of salty water trapped right underneath the glacier. According to the new study published in the journal Glaciology, said salty water has been trapped there for more than a million years,
“The salts in the brine made this discovery possible by amplifying contrast with the fresh glacier ice,” the study’s lead author, Jessica Badgeley, said in a press release, CBS News reports.
Blood Falls has been famous for its sporadic discharge of iron-rich salty water that turns bright red — much akin to a regular washroom tape oozing blood in horror movies. This bright red color appears when the iron reacts chemically with the surrounding air.
For the purpose of the study, Badgeley and her colleagues traced tracked the brine with a radio-echo sounding setup, which happens to be a common method for studying ice sheets and glaciers. A radar with two antennae is used in this set up with one antenna used to transmit electrical pulses whereas the other to receive the signals.
The research team moved the two antennae across Taylor Glaciers in a grid-like pattern to see what could be beneath the ice, Christina Carr, one of the researchers involved in the study said.
In addition to finding an explanation for the origin of the blood-red falls, the researchers made another important discovery that liquid water can exist inside glaciers — something a large of scientists had earlier considered to be impossible in nature.