back

Sailing stones of Racetrack Playa, a mysterious phenomenon

The sailing stones of Racetrack Playa have puzzled many for nearly a century. Here's the explanation behind this mysterious phenomenon.

Mysterious Rock Trails

What are the sailing stones?

Located in Racetrack Plata, a dry lake in Death Valley National Park, the sailing stones are a geographical phenomenon where rocks move without human or animal intervention and create long tracks behind them. The natural event was first observed by prospector Joseph Crook in 1915 when he visited from Nevada. Geologists Jim McAllister and Allen Agnew published a report about the sliding rocks in the Geologic Society of America Bulletin, drawing the attention of several naturalists. Since then they have been researched for the last several years by scientists and publications including Life magazine.

Despite the mystery, some visitors do not respect the importance of this phenomenon. In recent years, there has been both theft and vandalism of the sailing rocks and their trails. In 2013, some were stolen and never recovered. In 2016, one of the rocks had initials carved into them and the area was covered with tire tracks, ruining the natural tracks. However, the tire tracks have since been cleaned by volunteers. Today, there are over thirty rocks still out there and occasionally moving every so often.

How do they move?

The answer was determined back in 2014. This movement of the rocks occurs because of a layer of ice that is created by intense winter rainfall and freezing night temperatures. Then the ice melts into large sheets of ice that float on puddles of water. This exposes the rock and ice sheets to incredibly strong winds that drag and the rocks move up to 5 meters per minute. This defied previous research done by geologist George Stanley when he wrote in his 1955 paper that the stones were too heavy to be moved by winds. However, climate change may affect the number of times this phenomenon occurs as there has already been a decline in the sailing stone movement since the 1990s, making the sailing stones even more special.

Brut.

07/03/2020 2:30 PM

149 comments

  • Jean K.
    4 days

    Mininiature version of how fjords are made

  • Auriell C.
    4 days

    Because they can lol

  • Ali A.
    4 days

    Draged with drone with string attached 🤔

  • Siem K.
    5 days

    Some naughty boys push it no big deal

  • Tommi S.
    23/11/2021 03:08

    You just can't record it on a video because no one has the videocamera, just still picture camera device 😮

  • Luminary D.
    21/11/2021 17:48

    And on my a few of these lone rocks

  • Joe S.
    20/11/2021 14:56

    The information provided says they move 3 to 4 meters per minute. ???????

  • Shino M.
    19/11/2021 09:23

    krusty kraaaaaaabs pizza

  • N J.
    17/11/2021 08:28

    We need Mythbusters to reenact

  • Annalynne H.
    16/11/2021 16:39

    No.. it’s not global warming. This is always happening since the earth exists. It happened a lot in Cambodia. The rocks move by themselves. It’s a mystery but old folks knew about the rolling rocks .

  • Agus S.
    12/11/2021 22:57

    kalo penjelasannya spt itu hrs nya benda apapun ygvdiletakkan di tempat itu akan melakukan hal yg sama donk, ya kan?

  • Isaac P.
    12/11/2021 22:32

    Sketch

  • Kim J.
    12/11/2021 02:21

    It's gravity that moves these rocks across this area.

  • Marie-Louise L.
    10/11/2021 10:03

    Saw this in Death valley

  • Julius D.
    09/11/2021 20:55

    Death Valley moving rocks "mystery" explained in 3 emojis 💨🧊🪨

  • Marilyn W.
    09/11/2021 16:43

    Moved by the ghost that passed away in the Valley..😳

  • Casper N.
    09/11/2021 14:34

    Alien shuffleboard 😀

  • Ankoku N.
    09/11/2021 13:26

    Mutya yan

  • निहारिका अ.
    09/11/2021 13:07

    Earlier the mountains or rock hills have feathers and they use to fly.

  • Neil S.
    09/11/2021 12:51

    How Egyptians moved the blocks!

Stay informed and entertained, for free with myBrut.

Stay informed and entertained, for free with myBrut.

switch-check
switch-x
By continuing, you agree to receive emails from Brut.