Racetrack Playa (national park of Death Valley, California) is famous for its moving stones. The floor of the playa (an ancient lake) is dried, scorched mud which has broken into perfect little octagons and pentagons. It's as flat as flat can be. And there are roaming rocks which seem to move on their own. The stones vary from pebble size to half ton boulders and vary in size and shape due to them breaking off the hills you see behind in the photo. Their tracks vary in length and go every which way from zig-zags to loops and double back on themselves. Some travel only a few feet; others go for hundreds of yards. How wind loops and doubles back on itself and zig zags? Why two rocks right next to each other take totally different paths, why some are left untouched?

For a long time the reasons why baffled geologists and scientists who studied them until to geologists from CalTech did a seven year study on them. They concluded that the reason the rocks move is because, under specific weather conditions, rain or heavy fog or dew makes the mud slippery and wet, and the winds push the rocks around.

 These huge stones have the ability to move themselves across the dry, dusty desert floor sometimes as much as 900 FEET in a single movement. While no one has ever actually seen a stone move, Dr. Robert P. Sharp, a geologist in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, states that he monitored the movement of 30 stones from 1968 to 1974. Dr. Sharp states that stones move at speeds of up to three feet per second, and have been known to move as much as two miles.

At one point, Dr. Sharp and Dwight Carey, formerly of the Department of Geology at U.C.L.A, positioned iron stakes around each of the stones to measure the slightest movement. But even these posed no obstacle, once the stones started moving. Apparently these stakes didn't stop 28 of the 30 stones from escaping and moving outside the encirclement, Dr. Sharp revealed. Some immutable law of nature somehow prescribes that movements will occur only in the darkness of stormy nights. Interestingly, of the 30 stones monitored, Dr. Sharp said seven actually disappeared inexplicably and without a trace.

Any attempt of explanation has been revealed insufficient. The same Sharp proposes a combination of ice and wind that would act during the night (probably a phenomenon similar to the  "pipkrakes" of the periglacial environment). He admits that at the  moment every explanation is purely assumptive.

Don Spalking is superintendent of Death Valley National Monument. He knows Dr. Sharp, and he knows the doctor's research to find out what really makes the stones move. "The experts have been coming here for years" he says, "But no one has actually seen a stone move. We know they do it, but we don't know how or why".

One of the rangers of the park said he thinks it has something to do with magnetics underground

He said some of it could be wind for sure and that the mud did get slippery when it was damp or wet, but that didn't explain how two rocks right next to each other could go in two opposite directions or one could stay put while one three times the size, didn't. He stated that he's seen the rocks moving long distances when it's perfectly dry out and there is NO wind, or the "conditions" that are said to be needed for it to happen just weren't there. Since it's a desert it rarely rains except during monsoon season, and at times it does get very foggy in the morning, yet the rocks do this all year long.

Can the only force of wind move of the stones on a frozen surface? And how could this lake cover itself of ice or hoarfrost during the night? We are in a desert in California!

And so the scientists continue to research and study the secret of the mysterious moving stones of Death Valley, California, in another classic example of the unexplained.


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