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Why is this Antarctic Glacier “Bleeding?”

Episode 3: Did you know that Antarctica has a glacier that bleeds red? (At least, that’s what it looks like.)

Premiered: Runtime: 10:01Topic: Planet EarthPlanet EarthNova
Premiered on PBS

Five stories high and emerging from the Taylor Glacier in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica, Blood Falls seeps into an ice-covered body of water called Lake Bonney. It’s one of the continent’s most enigmatic natural features and has fascinated scientists for decades. What makes it red? Does it always flow? And can anything actually survive near it? To find out—and see just how bizarre Blood Falls is with their own eyes—Caitlin and Arlo travel to the Dry Valleys, about 60 miles from McMurdo Station. There, they meet with microbiologist Jill Mikucki and hydrogeologist Peter Doran to investigate why this glacier looks the way it does, what lives there (spoiler: CHARISMATIC MICROBES!), and what clues it holds for finding and understanding life on other planets and moons in our solar system, like Mars, Jupiter’s Europa, and Saturn’s Enceladus. Answering these questions, it turns out, requires lots of probes, cameras, and even a massive sensor hanging from a helicopter.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this video incorrectly stated that Enceladus is a moon of Jupiter. It is a moon of Saturn.

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Major funding for NOVA is provided by the David H. Koch Fund for Science, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS viewers. Additional funding is provided by the NOVA Science Trust.

Major funding for this project is provided by the National Science Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Heising-Simons Foundation, The Kendeda Fund, the George D. Smith Fund, and the Richard Saltonstall Charitable Foundation.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1713552. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Footage of seals was obtained under the authority of NMFS MMPA permit nos.1032-1917, 17236, & 21158