Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wednesday Weird: Sailing Stones

Yay! I'm glad I worked out a way to upload pics again, because for today's Wednesday Weird, the pics are some of the best parts.

Why? Because we're talking about Sailing Stones!





In Death Valley, there's a playa (a dry lake bed) called The Racetrack, because giant boulders resting on the surface move of their own accord.

No one has ever seen or filmed the stones moving, and though there are some really good theories as to what causes them to move (and even NASA has been involved in investigating them) no one's truly sure how they actually move.

A lot of people suspect wind. Because it's surrounded by mountains, the wind can really kick up a fuss. Throw in some rain, which turns the lake bed to slick mud, and maybe there's enough force to move the boulders (some which are as large as washing machines).

The problem with this theory is that the wind blows in one direction across the playa. And as you can see, some of the stones don't.





Another theory is involves. ice. Even though this is Death Valley, ice has been seen and reported on the playa. If you get enough ice freezing around the boulders, you may get an effect where ice collars form around the stones, and when the water level rises, the stones are floated off the ground enough for a much slighter wind to push the boulder across the lake bed.

So there you have it! Sailing Stones. What are your thoughts or theories?

14 comments:

Maria Zannini said...

This story has always intrigued me but I don't have a clue as to how they move.

What I can't figure out is why they can't or don't film it. I mean, Google Earth is everywhere. Surely they can spend a night in Death Valley.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Agree with Maria - they should be able to film it.

DL Hammons said...

Ditto...somebody give a scientist a grant for some video equipment and lets get this one figured out! :)

Kristin Rae said...

Triple ditto. Someone needs to film that!! So cool!

LD Masterson said...

Um, magnetic fields? And I totally agree with the video idea.

Johanna Garth said...

Cool. You know, it strikes me as interesting that there are still mysteries like this given all the technology we have to uncover the sources.

Southpaw said...

Cool, but I had to know why they haven't filmed this yet. It take 3-4 years for the rocks to move. Still I think they need to install a camera.

Rena said...

The problem with RaceTrack is that the movement doesn't just happen all the time. Sure they could film, but which rock, where and it's Death Valley, people would steal the equipment. Also, sixty mile an hour winds are rough conditions, and there is literally nothing out there except the boulders. What would they attach the camera to?

A few scientists have tacked GPS units onto the boulder so they can figure out when the boulders move (seriously, this is an incredibly dry, windy place, your average camera isn't going to cut it, and what do you set it up on?)

And it looks like ice collars might be the way if you watch this video you can see one researcher's start at figuring it out.

Michael Offutt, Speculative Fiction Author said...

I think it's the wind.

Ryan Spires said...

I have a confession . . . it's me that's moving them.

Jamie Gibbs said...

Aliens. It's always aliens :) I'm surprised they haven't just attached a headcam to a stone and see what happens.

Jamie

Slamdunk said...

Ahh, Jamie took my answer. I was thinking an alien game of kickball or something.

Teebore said...

I dunno. Coast Guard?

Anne Gallagher said...

OMG that is the coolest thing I've ever seen. Never knew they existed. I'm going to say they're alive, just very slow movers.

Don't know if you would have ever seen the movie Heavy Metal,(1980's) but there was a guy in it made out of rocks. Wicked cool. I bet that's what is going on in the playa. They're totally alive.

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