Discovered nearly a hundred years ago in the earlier part of the 1900's, a geologist named Griffith Taylor was entranced by the flowing red river upon the white ice of Antarctica. At first, Taylor believed the phenomenon was caused by species of algae blooming on the glacier. At the time, it was known that some forms of algae can cause discolorations, which led to Taylor's hypothesis. The hypothesis suggested that life could exist, even in such an extreme environment like Antarctica. In today's world, we are all very aware of the extreme conditions that life can exist within, and its been established that it isn't organisms causing the "Blood Falls."

What causes the flowing red river?

Since its discovery, Scientists have been scratching their heads about the cause of the flowing red river.

In 2003, scientists analyzed the phenomenon and discovered that the liquid was just water. However, it had a very high concentration of iron. The iron was turning red once its atoms encountered the air we breathe. This causes the iron to oxidize (or rust) which we all know has a dingy orange color to it. Figuring out what turned the water red was only half the mystery. Scientists have been trying since then to figure out where the source of the water came from.

A puzzle of a discovery

Many thought the water was coming from a pre-historic source millions of years old. In order to find the full answer, they had to search inside the glacier named after the discoverer of the "Blood Falls," Taylor.

Scientists used radio-echoes to roughly scan the area near the spot where the red river is found. They did not drill, and were surprised at their findings. It turns out that Taylor Glacier is sitting atop an ancient network of flowing water. Essentially, it's a lake that exists underneath the ice of a huge glacier. The water remained a liquid not because of its iron, but its salt concentration.

The last piece

The water was detected only because of its high concentration of salt, as well as iron. Because the water is so salty, its been a liquid for millions of years underneath a thick sheet of ice. So, after about 100 years, Taylor's discovery can finally be explained. The water that is hidden underneath the ice can sometimes escape and touch the oxygen above it, causing it to rust and run red through the icy mountains.

This recent discovery is the oldest known source of flowing water inside a glacier and could help us understand more of how water can stay in its liquid form, even under the most extreme conditions.

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