Scientists Solve Mystery of 'Sailing Rocks'

Image: Scientists Solve Mystery of 'Sailing Rocks' A "sailing rock" at Death Valley National Park. (Dan Carr/Barcroft Media/Landov)

Thursday, 28 Aug 2014 11:15 AM

By John Blosser

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
|  A   A  
  Copy Shortlink
A scientific enigma which has baffled scientists for over a century bit the dust recently in the barren, windswept Racetrack Playa dry lake bed in Death Valley National Park — the mystery of the "sailing rocks."

The rocks, some weighing up to 700 pounds, eerily move, seemingly on their own, leaving a series of clear, wavering lines in their wake, displaying the direction of their motion, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Their eerie motion has been attributed to everything from earthquakes to ice floes to UFOs, but until scientist cousins Richard Norris, 55, a paleobiologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and James Norris, 59, a research engineer, used GPS technology to study the weird actions of the "slithering stones" on Dec. 21, and caught a lucky break, no one knew the cause.

NASA Expert: The End of Global Warming

As the sun heated up the frozen lake bed and ice began to crack and shift, Richard Norris yelled, according to the Times, "My god, Jim, it's happening!'

"There was this crackling sound or popping sound all over the playa," Norris told  National Geographic. "One moment it was quiet, and the next moment it was popping everywhere as the ice began to break up, and I said to my cousin, 'This is it! We’re actually seeing this whole thing happen!'"

Breaking, melting overnight ice formed "sails" against the rocks which, pushed by the wind, caused the scientists' GPS-implanted stones to inch along the briefly mud-slick surface, creating the snaky trails, the cousins wrote in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

"Observed rock movement occurred on sunny, clear days, following nights of sub-freezing temperatures. Steady light winds and morning sun caused floating ice to break-up near mid day, accompanied by widespread popping sounds from fragmenting ice panels. Ice initially broke into floating panels tens of meters in size that became increasingly fragmented and separated by open rippled water as melting continued. Floating ice sheets driven by wind stress and flowing water pushed rocks resting on the playa surface," they wrote in PLOS ONE.

The event is extremely rare and requires a complex and unique mix of temperature, water and wind.

NASA Expert: The End of Global Warming

"I’m amazed by the irony of it all," James Norris told the Times. "In a place where rainfall averages two inches a year, rocks are being shoved around by mechanisms typically seen in arctic climes.

"And the movement is incredibly slow. These rocks clock in at about 15 feet per minute.
"There was a side of me that was wistful, because the mystery was no more."

Related Stories:

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
Email:
Country
Zip Code:
Privacy: We never share your email.
 
Hot Topics
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
Top Stories
You May Also Like

Astronauts Getting 3-D Printer at Space Station

Saturday, 20 Sep 2014 07:38 AM

The 3-D printing boom is about to invade space.NASA is sending a 3-D printer to the International Space Station in hopes . . .

New Smartphone App Gives Sight to Blind

Saturday, 20 Sep 2014 07:29 AM

Jonathan Mosen, who has been blind since birth, spent his evening snapping photos of packages in the mail, his son's sch . . .

Gas Chambers, Jewelry Unearthed at Sobibor Death Camp

Friday, 19 Sep 2014 09:00 AM

Archaeologists have uncovered the long-buried remains of gas chambers, and jewelry and other personal items belonging to . . .

Most Commented

Newsmax, Moneynews, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, NewsmaxWorld, NewsmaxHealth, are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

 
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved