Monday, October 26, 2009

The Mysterious Sailing Stones of Death Valley

The sailing stones (sliding rocks, moving rocks) are a geological phenomenon where rocks move in long tracks along a smooth valley floor without human or animal intervention. They have been recorded and studied in a number of places around Racetrack Playa, Death Valley, where the number and length of travel grooves are notable. The force behind their movement is not understood and is subject to research.

Racetrack stones only move every two or three years and most tracks develop over three or four years. Stones with rough bottoms leave straight striated tracks while those with smooth bottoms wander. Stones sometimes turn over, exposing another edge to the ground and leaving a different track in the stone's wake.

Sliding rock trails fluctuate in direction and length. Some rocks which start next to each other start out traveling parallel, but one may abruptly change direction to the left, right, or even back the direction it came from. Length also varies because two similarly sized and shaped rocks could travel uniformly, then one could burst ahead or stop dead in its track.

Speed is an unknown variable. Since these stones are rarely transported and nobody has witnessed the movement, the speeds the rocks travel at are not known.

































































































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10 comments :

Anonymous said...

it's not a mystery! scientists already figured out why this happens! it's because of the severe temperature changes. the ground freezes at night and heats up during day, all this freezing/unfreezing causes the top ground layer and the stone to move little by little.

Margaret the Skeptic said...

I don't buy it. Not traveling that long & leaving such long straight-ish lines behind them.

Anonymous said...

I think it has all got to do with the magnetic pull or field. Obviously the direction of the rocks has got something to do with it. That's why the rocks all go in that direction.

Anonymous said...

I read an article in a science magazine last year about Death valley, and one theory was that when it rains (very rarely) the soil gets super slippery and then the wind pushes the stones around

Anonymous said...

there's a vid explaining the whole thing on you tube. Its the rain/wind thing

Anonymous said...

You all need to keep an open mind... how could so many theories be correct? The truth is that no one knows for sure why or how they move, so no assumptions should be made. It's okay to believe in a theory, but when you start spouting it as the truth, it becomes a problem.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that wind can blow rocks uphill. My personal belief is that ice lenses associated with frost heave are to blame. The temperature gets cold enough, and the soil type is highly conducive to this phenomenon. In the end, the reason the rocks move is the same reason rocks usually move, gravity. They are just sliding downhill.

mberger10@woh.rr.com

Anonymous said...

you contradict yourself.
Uphill or downhill?

aliens i tell you
aliens
:)

Sailing Life Jackets said...

I saw a documentary on the dicscovery channel not long back about this. They tested stones of varying sizes in a wind tunnel and found that the winds on the flats are able to move the stones, even the very big ones. They kinda wobble forward rather than slide though which makes the trail.

Anonymous said...

It is the work of aliens! Or they got magical and spiritual properties of course.