March 6, 2011
Look at these pictures and let your imagination try to figure out how this came to pass. Stones in the middle of nowhere that leave trails behind them, yet nobody for miles, and no animals either. Just how did they move? What’s making them move?
The Racetrack Playa, or The Racetrack, is a scenic dry lake feature with “sailing stones” that leave linear “racetrack” imprints. It is located above the northwestern side of Death Valley, in Death Valley National Park, Inyo County, California, U.S.
During periods of heavy rain, water washes down from the mountains onto the Playa, forming a shallow, short-lived lake. Under the hot desert sun, the thin veneer of water quickly evaporates leaving behind a surface layer of soft slick mud. As the mud dries, it shrinks and cracks into a mosaic pattern of interlocking polygons.
The phenomenon of “Sailing Rocks” refers to rocks that move, leaving trails differing in both direction and length. Rocks that start next to each other may travel parallel for a time, before one abruptly changes direction to the left, right, or even back the direction it came from. Trail length also varies – two similarly sized and shaped rocks may travel uniformly, then one could move ahead or stop in its tracks.
There are those who believe that environmental factors come into play to provide a balance of specific conditions needed for the stones to move:
- A saturated yet non-flooded surface
- A thin layer of clay
- Very strong gusts of wind as the initiating force
- Strong sustained wind to keep the stones going
Others say it is a matter of extreme temperature shifts at night which result in ice forming. Add to this strong winds which cause the rocks to slide hence leaving the mysterious trails in the slick mud similar to the sport “curling” played on ice.
This leads to many questions that are still today unanswered. Yes, logically it makes sense, but how do the scientists explain rocks that move in the same direction then veer off in opposite directions; or a small and big rock side by side, yet only the big rock moves? It’s bizarre, and still a phenomenon today as nobody has seen them moving, or not yet anyway.
Have a look at the videos and photos below also…
Or view the video on the server at: http://video.tsemtulku.com/videos/MovingRocks.flv
Or view the video on the server at: http://video.tsemtulku.com/videos/DeathValleySlidingRocksMystery.flv
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