Mysterious Sliding Rocks

http://geology.com/articles/racetrack-playa-sliding-rocks.shtml

I came across this article a couple of weeks ago while searching for other articles to blog about. I found it incredibly interesting because it seemed a little something like a mystery. Being the curious person I am, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to explore this amazing natural occurrence.

We cannot talk about how this phenomenon occurs without talking about where it occurs. The article says that this “rock sliding” occurs in the “Racetrack Playa,” which is a large flat area in Death Valley national park, located in California. Although the exact cause of the rocks’ movement is unknown, this article expresses several theories that could explain this abnormal progression across this flat land. When I first saw this article, I came to the conclusion that perhaps the land was slightly slanted and that the rocks had just slid do to gravity, but the article states a couple of other reasons. I am going to tell you the reasons that they list and then state whether or not I agree or see any reality in the theory.

1) The rocks are moved by people or by animals- The article says that it would be impossible for these rocks to be moved by either people or animals because there are no animal or people tracks, which would be left when the sand is wet (the only time the rocks would be able to move). I agree that there would definitely be some sort of track left if the rocks were being moved in this way.

2) The rocks are moved by ice- The article says that the rocks become frozen into thin ice sheets and then the wind slowly moves the ice sheets across. I do not agree with this theory because I believe that it is not consistent.  The article says that tests were done to confirm this theory of the rocks moving but the tests concluded by saying that this theory did not accurately explain the movement of the rocks.

3) The rocks were moved by the formation of mud and wind- Although Death Valley, California, receives very minute amounts of rain, the little that they do get can turn the shallow, fairly smooth and flat ground into a very slippery mud when the rain water runs off onto track. The theory says that when the track turns into this slippery mud, wind is then responsible for propelling these several hundred rocks across the top. The rocks are able to do this because a great decrease in friction due to the mud. I agree most with this theory because it seems like it is the most probable. Apparently, most researchers and enthusiasts also agree with this theory, mostly because of the inconsistencies in the other theories. So, I believe that this theory does the best job in explaining this fascinating and interesting mystery of nature.

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2 Responses to Mysterious Sliding Rocks

  1. thefinch26 says:

    I thought this was a cool blog to read about because back in the beginning of the semester we were shown pictures of this. So its cool to look back on that when we didn’t really know much about geology and looking at it now after getting some information about geology, and the difference it makes.

  2. drew alderman says:

    I believe that the wind movement theory is also the best provided. From the picture in the article it looks like Racetrack Playa is located in between two mountains. Strong winds could be sandwiched through there moving the rocks parallel to the wind direction.

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