California: ‘Sailing Rocks’ an Extraordinary Mystery

California: ‘Sailing Rocks’ an Extraordinary Mystery

The California desert is a phenom of nature’s wonders. A trip to this remote place of starkness evokes images of what pioneers must have witnessed as they were heading west, settling into California. Crossing an ominous stretch of cracked land known as Death Valley.

For years, one of the most puzzling mysteries has taken place here; the moving rocks of Death Valley, sitting in the middle of nowhere, inching ever so slowly across the dried lake bed.

Racetrack PlayaKnown as Racetrack Playa, it is the seasonally dry lake or “playa” located in the Panamint Mountains of Death Valley National Park, California, U.S.A. The northern part is famous for ‘sailing stones‘. Also known as Racetrack stones, they only move once every few years, their tracks last only a little bit longer. It takes stones with rough bottoms leave striated tracks.

How did these sailing stones get there?

Racetrack_Playa,_Death_Valley,_CARuled out were the notions of mountain slides due to no supporting scientific data, and animals potentially disrupting by dragging, or a human factor, where also discounted by experts.

Some rocks weighing several hundred pounds seem to simply float across the desert plain leaving a track behind them. Yet, no one had seen them move, nor tracked their trek that not always went in a straight line.

According to investigator Brian Dunning, “Solid ice, moving with the surface of the lake and with the inertia of a whole surrounding ice sheet, would have no trouble pushing a rock along the slick muddy floor.”

A theory proved one winter’s day when temperatures warmed, prompting a snow-melt that had covered the playa. It just so happened that a photographer captured on film, one of nature’s biggest mysteries and solved the case of the sailing rocks of Death Valley.

Racetrack_Playa_(Pirate_Scott)How to get to Racetrack Road?

Off road vehicles are necessary.

Access the Grapevine Junction near Scotty’s Castle, head approx. 28 miles south-west from Ubehebe Crater. Look for a parking area with signs by the National Park Service. Look for a bench set up by the Mano Seca Group offering views of The Racetrack.

Video: Brian @ Skeptoid Media
Photos:
Jim Gordon
Pirate Scott
Creative Commons license

 

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