Three debris-bearing ice facies were recognized at the base of Suess Glacier, a cold-based glacier damming a lake in Taylor Valley, South Victoria Land, Antarctica. These facies are termed “amber ice”,“solid facies” and “basal stratified facies”. This paper uses stable-isotope composition (δD and δ18O), gas content and gas composition (CO2, O2 and N2) to develop an understanding of the processes responsible for the formation of these facies. The basal ice is characterized by a striking difference in ice properties between the innermost end of a 25 m long tunnel dug 200 m upstream from the glacier front and the front itself. At the glacier front, co-isotopic data plot along a well-defined freezing slope (S = 5.6), whereas, inside the tunnel, the isotopic data offset from the freezing slope and from the local meteoric water-line (which has a slope of 8.2). CO2 concentrations rise from a minimum of about 1000 ppmv in the tunnel to about 220000ppmv at the front. Taken together, these characteristics strongly suggest an increasing contribution of liquid water in the formation of basal ice towards the glacier terminus. We therefore conclude that visually similar basal ice facies can have different origins.