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Finding Neverland Blog Archive

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Death Valley and It's Mysterious Moving Rocks.

Moving Rocks of the Death Valley.
Death Valley is a desert valley located in Eastern California. Situated within the Mojave Desert, it is the lowest, hottest and driest area in North America. And his has some of America’s drastic mountain ranges. Death valley’s Zabriskie Point is known for it’s beautiful volcanic colors and sharp shaped limestone.

Located near the border of California and Nevada, in the Great Basin, east of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Death Valley constitutes much of Death Valley National Park and is the principal feature of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts Biosphere Reserve. It is located mostly in Inyo County, California. It runs from north to south between the Amargosa Range on the east and the Panamint Range on the west; the Sylvania Mountains and the Owlshead Mountains form its northern and southern boundaries, respectively. It has an area of about 3,000 sq mi (7,800 km2)


Death Valley is home to the Timbisha tribe of Native Americans who have inhabited the valley for at least the past 1000 years. The Timbisha name for the valley, tümpisa, means "rock paint" and refers to the red ochre paint that can be made from a type of clay found in the valley. Some families still live in the valley at Furnace Creek. Another village was located in Grapevine Canyon near the present site of Scotty's Castle. It was called maahunu in the Timbisha language, the meaning of which is uncertain, although it is known that hunu means "canyon".

The valley received its English name in 1849 during the California Gold Rush. It was called Death Valley by prospectors and others who sought to cross the valley on their way to the gold fields, although only one death in the area was recorded during the Rush. During the 1850s, gold and silver were extracted in the valley. In the 1880s, borax was discovered and extracted by mule-drawn wagons.

In the dusky, cracked surface of a dried up lake bed in Death Valley, California, the stones move across the desert all by themselves.

On the barren Racetrack Player, the rocks, some as big as 700 pounds, leave trails in the sand, marking their inexplicable movements. Some of the tracks are nearly 600 feet long. The 'magic' force behind these 'sailing stones' has been a mystery to scientists for nearly a century.


To date, no scientist has been able to record the rock physically moving. It is believed that no one has ever seen them in motion.

No one would know they move at all if it weren't for the trails they leave behind in Racetrack Playa (pronounced PLY-uh), a nearly 3-mile-long stretch of flat ground in Death Valley National Park that has attracted scientists, researchers and curious observers ever since the stones were first discovered nearly a century ago.

The earliest hypotheses ranged from the plausible -- rainstorms sweeping across Death Valley caused flash flooding on the playa, followed by intense winds that blew the rocks across the mud -- to the not-so-plausible: an invisible magnetic force field, or perhaps aliens, move the rocks. (After all, the infamous Area 51 lies just across the state line in Nevada.)

The idea that the rocks are blown about by strong winds gained traction for a time in the mid-20th century, as the Racetrack Playa area often experiences strong winds, sometimes with gusts as high as 70 mph. But even gusts that strong wouldn't be enough to move many of the rocks found on the playa, some of which weigh as much as 700 pounds.

Other geologists surmised that the rocks were simply sliding downhill by the force of gravity (at an imperceptibly glacial pace, mind you). That theory went out the window when it was discovered that the rocks are actually moving uphill -- the southern end of the playa, where the rocks begin their journey, is actually a few centimeters lower than the northern end.

Now, a NASA geologist believes he has finally found the answer.

Professor Ralph Lorenz, a planetary scientist, believes the rocks become encased in ice during the winter, then as the lake bed thaws and becomes muddy, the ice allows the rock to 'float' on the mud - making them easily blown around by strong desert winds.

In an interview with Smithsonian magazine, he summarized his 2009 breakthrough this way: '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.'

This silent land is a mystery for everyone, although there is a lot of information about it over the internet but none of it is comprehensive. A lot of books have been written, several movies have been made  but the best thing is to actually experience it yourself, we may never be able to solve the mysteries but for sure we can enjoy the mysterious land.

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