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The Puzzle of Blood Falls of Taylor Glacier in Antarctica

Published by Shujauddin Razmi, Writer

Country: Antarctica

The Experience

The Antarctic glaciers are known to have true natural mysteries and phenomena, and have left several questions unanswered over the centuries. Blood Falls, though, is one which was solved by scientists long ago. Blood Falls is a waterfall resembling a bloodstream which runs slowly from the Taylor Glacier in McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica. When the spectacular Blood Falls was discovered during 1911, it gave many impressions to geologists at the time, producing several different theories. Researchers later revealed that microbes were responsible for causing the Blood Falls phenomenon.

On first sight, spewing a rust-like material, the Falls at Taylor Glacier can be rather puzzling, especially as most people are used to “white” waterfalls. The spectacular views of Taylor Falls have drawn scientists and researchers’ attentions for centuries; including the discovering member of Robert Scott's ill-fated team in 1911.

Blood Falls at Taylor Glacier has been seeping out for centuries on the harshest desert in the world—McMurdo Dry Valleys—which is a gigantic ice-free zone. This is the result of katabatic winds, which are winds blowing downhill. The speed of katabatic winds is so fast that it absorbs all the humidity around the place. So, if you are hiking or trekking, you will probably be blown up and down with katabatic winds blowing at around 200 mph.

Taylor Glacier is a crazy place, but you can only travel to this sweet spot to carry out geological experiments or research. Beautifully termed a natural laboratory, this continent fosters some of the greatest experiments freely in open air. Blood Falls is proof to this claim. Two million years ago mother nature captured a large pool of iron rich microbes in salt water under a thick layer ice, without exposure to any light or air. A fissure from deep within Taylor Glacier flows out though this, causing the five story high rust-like plume.

Maybe if you make it big you can hightail it to this peculiar Antartica travel spot, because no Antarctica tour is taking you hiking or trekking here. Discovered by geologist Griffith Taylor while exploring Taylor Valley, and surrounding Asgard Range and Kukri Hills, he did not know that this 55km long glacier would one day bear his name.

There are several frozen Antarctic glaciers, but Blood Falls has no really low temperatures, possibly due to the high amount of salt concentration below the glacier.

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Puzzle

When to Go to Blood Falls

Temperatures in Antarctica can reach −89°C (−129 °F), so this is not a destination for the faint of heart. At present, there is no permanent residence on this continent, but teams of scientists reside there throughout the year. They have special accommodations to live in, and protective clothes to wear.

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