The sinisterly named Blood Falls, with its bright red rivulets running down sheets of glacial ice five-stories tall, has long been a place of natural curiosity. The gruesome masterpiece is something you have to see to believe, which begs the questions: where is Blood Falls and how can it be accessed? The gory natural phenomenon, which is located in Antarctica, has gained worldwide attention since it was announced that a team of researchers solved the mystery of what gives Blood Falls their striking red color.
It was previously hypothesized that algae trapped in the ice tinted the Falls red as it melted. But in a paper published in The Journal of Glaciology on April 24, the results of radar mapping of the ice revealed not only the source of the falls, but also the special characteristics of the water that produce the unique crimson color and allow it to flow freely under such hostile frozen conditions. The study led by University of Alaska Fairbanks and Colorado College found that blood red water which sporadically springs from cracks on the surface of Taylor Glacier, as the iron-rich water is exposed to oxygen. The red tinge in the water caused by iron oxide, or, rust.
A subglacial lake and reservoirs, thought to be buried under the ice for over one million years, was found to be the source of falls. The salty water of the lake has a lower freezing point; the process of freezing produces heat which is able to help push the briny water to push through cracks in the glacier along a 300-foot path to the opening of the Falls. The researchers' use of radio-echo sounding mapped the path that the iron-rich salty water took through the glacier, revealing that liquid can exist beneath a glacier — the Taylor Glacier now being the coldest glacier to have consistently flowing water within it.
Taylor Glacier, named after geoscientist Griffith Taylor who discovered the unusual waterfall in 1911, is located in Antartica's McMurdo Dry Valleys. The Dry Valleys are an anomaly all their own, a brief respite from snow and ice on a frozen continent. Mountains shield the valleys from glacial ice, leaving a rocky landscape of gravel and bedrock, an unforgiving, alien landscape that has been said to be the closest we can get to Mars on Earth. The rough terrain is punctuated with punishing winds, robbing the air of humidity and moisture (good to know before you go).
Antartica, the ice covered continent that covers the Earth's South Pole, is the coldest place on the planet. The average annual temperature around the Blood Falls is -17 degrees C, meaning that there is minimal surface melt on the ice of the glacier.
The snow-free "oasis" is located within Victoria Land, west of McMurdo Sound. Tourists occasionally visit in the summer, when the continent is tilted towards the sun at all times; additionally, thousands researchers and scientists use the McMurdo Station as a hub to explore the South Pole.
According to Atlas Obscura, Blood Falls can only be reached by "helicopter from McMurdo Station (U.S.), Scott Base (New Zealand) or a cruise ship in the Ross Sea." To see these gruesome falls, it's best to apply for an internship — or lead a research expedition.