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Mystery Of Death Valley's 'Sailing Stones' May Have Been Solved

Mystery Of Death Valley's 'Sailing Stones' May Have Been Solved

Death Valley National Park is home to one of the world's strangest and mysterious phenomena: rocks that move along desert land with no gravitational cause known as "sailing stones." Located on the border of California, and Nevada. Death Valley National Park was designated in 1933. It's also the hottest place on earth, Death Valley is also the driest and lowest elevation in North America. 

Sliding rock trails have been observed and studied at various locations, including Little Bonnie Claire Playa, Nevada, and most famously Racetrack Playa, Death Valley National Park, California, where the number and length of tracks are significant.

Sailing stones are part of a geological phenomenon in which rocks move across the desert and leave long trails without human or animal intervention.

Sailing Stones at Racetrack Playa,
Death Valley National Park, California, USA.

Ice, wind, dust devils, hurricane-strength winds, and even bacteria, and UFOs are suspected of causing heavy rocks to move, but the mystery was finally resolved when researchers caught the rocks in the act, paper published in Plos One

For the first time in 2014, scientists were able to capture the movement of stones using time-lapse photography. The results strongly indicated that sailing stones are the result of a perfect balance between ice, water, and wind.

In 2014, a group of researchers supported by the Oceanography Scripps Institution, NASA, and others announced that they had solved the mystery. Richard D. Norris and his cousin James M. Norris said the motion came from a very thin ice sheet that sometimes covered the dry lake bed. When the ice begins to melt under the sun, it first breaks into large, thin panels, so that, with a surge of even light winds, Floating ice panels can then push the rocks, causing them to move and leave long trails on the desert floor. The movement is slow, not more than 15 feet a minute.

Once all the ice melts and the water evaporates, the stones are left to sit back and wait. The only proof, until now, of the whole event being the mysterious tracks in their wake.

Scientists have been offering theories about these "Sailing Stones" since at least the 1940s. A lot of people thought that wind or ice played a role, but not in the ways that Norrises and colleagues uncovered.

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