Aug 292014

For a long time – centuries, really – people have noticed that sizable rocks (the so-called “sailing stones“) sometimes slide across Death Valley leaving long “racetracks” in their wake. But nobody had actually seen this happen. It was a mystery as to just what was going on… theories included the rocks being shoved by wind after the playa had been rained on and, of course, ghosts and spirits and aliens and all the other nonsense that people like to invoke for anything not immediately explicable.

A series of tests involving rocks with built-in GPS locators and long-duration fixed cameras have finally solved the mystery.

At rare times in winter, shallow ponds will form. The dirt and salt and whatnot that gets dissolved into the occasional rainwater doesn’t flow away, but is simply left behind when the water evaporates; this results in a very flat, uniform “floor.” When a pond forms, the water will be broad but very shallow. And if it’s cold enough, it will of course freeze on the surface. During a thaw, the ice will break up, first into large sheets. These sheets will be thin, just a few millimeters, but very broad, and the wind can use the low, broad sheets as sails to push on any rocks projecting above the dirt.

Nothing magical or supernatural or even that conceptually difficult. It’s just that since the population density is so low, apparently nobody was actually there to see it before until recently.

[youtube uyHcs7B27Zk]

 Posted by at 10:05 am
  • Anonymous

    I wonder if you could scale that up somehow. I had this idea of a lake where very large stones could have balloons float them to an upright position. Drain the lake and you have megaliths and people scratching their heads as to how they were built.

  • Rick

    and still, people angrily defend the “unknown” because they fail to even read the report, and make claims that “only the artificial stones moved” and “only the small ones moved” so that “you guys discovered no truth at all!”.

    Delusion is a mighty thing.