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Jul 19, 2012

Sailing Stones of Racetrack Playa

The sailing stones of Racetrack Playa in Death Valley
By sandy.redding
Among the the ghost towns, abondoned mines and amazing geology of Death Valley, California, there is a place of intriguing mystery. Located above the northwestern side of the National Park, the dry lakebed of Racetrack Playa is world-famous for its inexplicable sailing stones, a puzzle that has baffled scientists for decades.

The stones sitting on the lakebed move around without any apparent reason, sometimes sailing in a long, straight line, at other times traveling only a few feet, and on occasion zigzagging and looping around like no tomorrow.

And yet, despite the fact that this phenomenon has been known for several decades, no one has ever actually seen the stones move, nor have they been filmed in motion. The trails they leave behind on the lakebed are the only evidence of their treks.

When the sailing stones were first discovered, a multitude of theories were suggested, ranging from the supernatural to the absurdly complicated. The obvious candidate, wind, didn’t seem likely due to the heavy weight of many of the stones.

However, now scientists believe a combination of very specific weather conditions and strong wind may reduce the friction between the mud of the lakebed and the rocks enough for them to take off. Not everyone is satisfied with this theory though. Some people have claimed to observe the stones move even when the needed conditions were not present. As of now, the truth has yet to be revealed.

By Raj Hanchanahal
By Thomas Hawk


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