Saturday, June 13, 2009


Antarctic is not all white ice and blue water. These are the Blood Falls at the snout end of the Taylor Glacier in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. The red colour is from iron oxide and colonies of microbes have been discovered just up from here.

They've been happily surviving in a briny pool approximately 5 kms wide, sealed more than 1,300 feet below the glacier ice for millions of years.
They've adapted to 'breathe' iron to produce energy and were discovered in the water slowly leaking from the glacier where the pools are buried. This water flows erratically and it's taken researchers years to collect enough to test.
The very salty water which doesn't freeze because of its extreme saltiness, was devoid of oxygen but loaded with elements of iron and sulphur.

Two species of living microbes have been cultured, Thiomicrospira arctica, which metabolizes sulphur and Desulfocapso sulfoexigens, which can live without oxygen but it's not yet known how many different species are living in the pool itself. Life forms like these are called extremophiles and many think these are what will be discovered on the planets in our solar systems.
Antarctica, alien virus, X-files, you all remember those episodes, don't you?


Brian Hughes said...

It looks like my last attempt to make an orange meringue.

Link said...

That first photo looks positively gruesome. Poor Antarctica, highly symbolic- its now bleeding.

River said...

Iron oxide? Or the bloodbath that ensued when the wraith attacked Stargate Atlantis?

Andrew said...

The blood from the 2006 penguin wars flows slowly to the sea. Why doesn't anyone make a sensible comment? T'was an interesting post.

Jayne said...

That is a gruesome sight, imagine the first bloke's thoughts when it was found!
Actually the fact microbes have learnt to breathe iron is scaring the crap out of me *recalling those X-Files eps with a shudder*

WV =latingen - the generation who knew their latin verbs better than their lattes.

JahTeh said...

Fleetwood, the thought of you cooking anything is an X-file in itself.

Caroline, it's a fascinating place, the inland valley so cold it can't snow and water so salty it can't freeze and the best area to find Martian meteorites.

River, when are they going to bring back Stargate Atlantis? All this reality rubbish on TV and good SF shows are a no show.

Andrew, sensible comments at this blog are also in the realms of the X-files.

Jayne, not only that but the DNA of them, even after 2 million years, is similar to today's microbes.