Interesting Photo of the Day: Sailing Stone

Way out in the deep, deep emptiness of California’s Death Valley lies Racetrack Playa, a dried-up lakebed about three miles long and flat as a board. This part of the incredibly dry and hot desert valley may be surrounded by beautiful mountains, but Racetrack Playa doesn’t have much else to see—cracked desert earth and a bunch of rocks really—yet it draws in visitors like crazy. Why? It might have something to do with the supernatural floating rocks that move themselves:

sailing stone in death valley

The Wanderer by Paul Rojas (Via 500px. Click image to see full size.)

Scientists have been studying the “sailing stones” here for decades in an effort to find out the driving force behind the moving rocks. There have been a number of scientific theories involving wind, rain and ice, the most recent comes from planetary scientist, Ralph Lorenz. Lorenz and a team tested a model that proves a rock covered in a sheet of ice can move with just a slight breeze.

“Basically, a slab of ice forms around a rock, and the liquid level changes so that the rock gets floated out of the mud. It’s a small floating ice sheet which happens to have a keel facing down that can dig a trail in the soft mud.”

While the theory seems to make sense, there are some less-scientificy folks out there who still want to believe there’s a supernatural or extraterrestrial element involved. How can you blame them though? I mean, look at the above photo taken by Paul Rojas; it captures the mystery perfectly.

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One Comment

  1. Burt says:

    You are a bit late on this one. That photo is from quite a long time ago. The mystery was “solved” in August of this year. Google for it and get lots of hits, but here is one:

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