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November 29, 2020 ...

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Topic: Sailing Stones of Playa Death Valley National Park (Read 18 times) previous topic - next topic

Sailing Stones of Playa Death Valley National Park

Sailing Stones of Playa Death Valley National Park



Racetrack Playa, a seemingly barren three mile long stretch in California’s Death Valley, and its famously mysterious sailing stones have long captured the interest of both scientists and geology enthusiasts, who have attempted to explain the phenomenon since the 1940’s. Theories explaining the long tracks following each rock ranged from alien interference to magnetic forces. However, because no one had actually seen the stones moving, it was almost impossible to determine the true cause of the moving stones.

For many years, the prevailing theory was that the rocks somehow slid across ice, but this was never actually proven to be true.

In 2006, planetary scientist Ralph Lorenz attempted to explain the sailing stones using the weather stations he set up in Death Valley. Lorenz studied the movement of the rocks, while comparing the phenomenon to other environments in which stones moves in a similar way, specifically the arctic tidal areas. He then created a simple model for his findings, based on an easy kitchen experiment that you can recreate using the instructions below.

In 2013, a team of scientists verified Lorenz’s work by using GPS technology to track the movements of stones placed on the dry lakebed. Using time lapse photography, the team was able to capture one of the first videos of the moving stones, which you can watch here. It was determined that ice and wind helped propel the rocks across the Racetrack Playa. Small jagged pieces of ice provide a slippery surface for the stones to hydroplane across as the wind pushes them.

 
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