Unsolved Mystery

Sailing Stones…!

Sailing Stones are also called as Moving Rocks, Rolling Stones, Sliding Rocks, Walking Rocks.

Moving Rocks.

What are Moving Rocks?

The moving rocks are part of the geological phenomenon in which rocks move and inscribe long tracks along a smooth valley floor without human or animal intervention.

Where it has been Located?

One of the most interesting mysteries of Death Valley National Park California is the sliding rocks at Racetrack Playa (a playa is a dry lake bed). These rocks can be found on the floor of the playa with long trails behind them. Somehow these rocks slide across the playa, cutting a furrow in the sediment as they move.

Research History

At Racetrack Playa, these tracks have been studied since the early 1900s, yet the origins of the stone movement were not confirmed and remained the subject of research for which several hypotheses existed. However, as of August 2014, timelapse video footage of rocks moving has been published, showing the rocks moving at high wind speeds within the flow of thin, melting sheets of ice. The scientists have thus identified the cause of the moving stones to be ice shove.

If it is Possible of Climate Change?

The rock movement relies on a very rare set of circumstances, namely the usually-dry playa being flooded, and cold conditions to allow the water to freeze, drier winters and warmer winter nights would cause such circumstances to occur less often. A statistical study by Ralph Lorenz and Brian Jackson examining published reports of rock movements suggested (with 4:1 odds) an apparent decline between the 1960s-1990s, and the 21st century.

Sliding Stones.


The mystery solved when researchers observed rock movements using GPS and time-lapse photography. The research team witnessed and documented rock movement on December 20, 2013, that involved more than 60 rocks, with some rocks moving up to 224 m between December 2013 and January 2014 in multiple movement events. These observations contradicted earlier hypotheses of winds or thick ice floating rocks off the surface. Instead, rocks move when large ice sheets a few millimeters thick floating in an ephemeral winter pond start to break up during sunny days. These thin floating ice panels, frozen during cold winter nights, are driven by light winds and shove rocks at up to 5 m/min (0.3 km/h). Some GPS-measured moves lasted up to 16 minutes, and a number of stones moved more than five times during the existence of the playa pond in the winter of 2013-14.


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