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Cause of Blood Falls’ Color Discovered

By: Yuning Xiang

In 1911, Griffith Taylor was on an expedition in Antarctica when he saw something that stood out against the ice: a frozen waterfall with blood red ice water coming from inside a glacier. Taylor said that algae was the cause of its red-colored water. But a team led by W. Berry Lyons of the Ohio State University disproved this theory. The water is red because of iron-rich nanospheres.

The water contains particles that are created by bacteria inside the water. Several elements, like silicon, calcium, aluminum, and sodium, were found. The iron rusts, giving the falls its nightmarish look. The reason the iron oxidized is because of the water’s extreme salinity. For millions of years, bacteria have produced iron in oxygen- and light-deprived environments like the waterfall. This means that life could exist on other planets where there are similar conditions.

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