It looks like the Old Ones are alive and well. At least that’s the impression that you get when you look at pictures of a slow-moving, five-story high waterfall of what appears to be blood gradually oozing out of an Antarctic glacier. How else do you account for something that’s so obviously the result of mischief perpetrated by one of Lovecraft’s sinister creations? As it turns out science has an answer, and while it is significantly less spooky and evil, it’s almost as incredible as some made up ancient creature squeezing blood from a giant block of ice.
Colloquially called Blood Falls, this frozen waterfall pouring out of the Taylor Glacier was first discovered in 1911 and sits in Antarctica’s McMurdo Dry Valleys. Initial assumptions that the red color comes from algae were mistaken, and the real explanation is way better than boring old algae any day of the week. Somewhere in the neighborhood of two million years ago, the glacier sealed off a small lake or other body of water, one that, as is common with such things, was home to a collection of microbes. Isolated as they were from the rest of the world, these ancient microorganisms began to change and evolve on their own, independent of anything happening on the other side of the ice.
Not only did they manage to survive in an environment free from oxygen, heat, or light, they thrived and grew. The body of water they’ve been trapped in all these millennia is extremely salty, and also happens to be very high in iron, which is where the blood red color of the waterfall originates. A small opening in the face of the glacier allows the water of the lake to slowly ooze out without the rest of the becoming contaminated. In reality it is very much like a time capsule.
This is one of most hostile, harsh environments on the planet, and proves that life can thrive damn near anywhere on Earth. Some have pointed to this as evidence that similar situations could arise on other worlds that have similar collections of ice—Mars and Jupiter’s moon of Europa are the prime candidates. This is, unfortunately, not the case, as there would need to be a completely different set of circumstances and events for similar events to transpire. No matter what, Blood Falls is a breathtaking natural occurrence, fascinating to look at and study, and is more than a little unsettling at first glance.
Or all of this could be completely fabricated as a cover up and what we’re really seeing is the blood of one of the Elder Gods, trapped under millions of tons of ice, finally bubbling to the surface. It certainly has the appearance of something that sprang from Lovecraft’s brain, though it also resembles the Stigmata.