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Rolling Rocks in Death Valley

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posted on Nov, 14 2005 @ 06:56 AM
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I was quite surprised when I didn't find a single thread on the mysterious moving rocks in Racetrack Playa in Death Valley (unless I still don't have the hang of the ATS search facility...)

I'm sure most of the ATS members are familiar with these rocks, in the middle of nowhere, that clearly rolls around without explanation...

But for those who don't know anything about this...

The Racetrack is a unique attraction of Death Valley National Park that not many park visitors get to see. It's a dry lakebed in a very remote and beautiful area. On the north end of the lakebed is a rock formation known as the grandstands. Rocks from the grandstands and other nearby formations break off and fall onto the lake. There, they perform feats that make this remote playa world-famous.

They move! But after all these years, a hundred or more since this phenomenon was brought to the attention of naturalists studying Death Valley, no one has ever seen them move. These rocks aren't boulders; most are perhaps a foot or so tall, but can still weigh a lot and are not easy to lift.

The evidence that they move is the trails they leave behind them as they scoot around the lake. You'll find a rock sitting innocently anywhere on the playa -- from next to the grandstand to the far southern edge -- and behind it will be a trail, from the rock sliding across the fine clay surface of the lakebed.

When this phenomenon was discovered around 1900, observers speculated that magnetic forces were the cause. Now, however, scientists believe they have solved the mystery of this movement. It occurs, they believe, when there's been enough rain to wet down the lakebed, then a strong wind -- as much as 70 miles per hour in this area -- blows the rocks around. The surface of the lake is a fine clay that becomes extremely slick when wet. But since no one has yet seen them move, this is still just a theory.






More on these sites:
Death Valley Site
John Sullivan Site
www.anomalies-unlimited.com...
Google Search Results

I would love to hear the theories from the ATS members, especially those who've been there!?




posted on Nov, 14 2005 @ 07:19 AM
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Yep. I've seen those rocks on a documentary, showcasing "The world's top 10 unexplainable attractions" or something like that. I don't believe it's a hoax, but I also have absolutely no idea how they move. Perhaps it's magnetic? Maybe a flowing of lava below the valley with a lot of iron in it, and if the rocks are also magnetic, they may be pulled along the flow lines. Much like how you can pull a magnet with another magnet, through a piece of cardboard. I don't think wind or rain is enough.



posted on Nov, 14 2005 @ 07:21 AM
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I wonder why they don't place some cameras to observe and study the process...

[edit on 14-11-2005 by Sparhawk]



posted on Nov, 14 2005 @ 07:25 AM
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Cameras wouldn't really show or prove anything, besides that humans were not pushing it. Whatever the force acting on the rocks, I assume it would also be invisible on film. So basically you would just see the rocks moving on their own. lol. It would be neat to capture that even if it didn't help explain it though. If anything, it would add a little more validity.



posted on Nov, 14 2005 @ 07:31 AM
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From what I gather, the events are so random and unpredictable (and slow?) that camera placement would take years to get any results. Not to mention costly.

Actually there is a guy, Paula Messina, who has put a lot of time into these rocks and used sattelite tracking to study the movement of these rocks. You can read all about his studies on his site... You'll see that he marked quite a few rocks... Giving them names, and recorded their movement. (More here)

But he doesn't really come to some sort of conclusion...



posted on Nov, 15 2005 @ 03:16 AM
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I'm a bit disappointed in the lack of interest in the topic. Maybe there's little to be said about it? To big a mystery?

Well, thanks for the mods for the applauses!


I just wanted to add that I'm not all that convinced that it's magnetic fields. I'm no geologist, but basic principals still apply, doesn’t it?

1. Nowhere else on the planet are there rocks rolling around because of magnetic fields. Actually nowhere else on the planet are there rocks rolling around by themselves. Full stop.

2. Let's take a look at your typical magnetic field.
A bar magnet:



An electric field


Now, this "rolling of the rocks" has probably been going on for hundreds, thousands or even millions of years. Surely if a magnetic force is at work here, there should be a place where these rocks are collecting. There should be one big pile of rocks at some spot. With more rocks heading that direction.
Yet, this is not the case. The rocks move back and forth.

Yes, generally the rocks move towards the northern side of the playa, which is slightly higher than the Southern end. That means that the rocks are generally rolling uphill!

Some rock trails show gradual (curving) or abrupt (angular) changes in direction; most trails indicate a general south/southwest to north/northeast motion. Distances travelled of as much as 3.2 kilometres are inferred by the presence of distinctive lithologies far from possible areas of origin. Many rocks appear to break off dolomite cliffs at the south end of the playa, and are ultimately "deposited" where the playa meets an alluvial fan, about 2 kilometres to the north.

This is confusing. If it is indeed a magnetic force, then the force is NOT constant, it radically changes position and maybe even poles!?

Maybe the fact that the movement generally takes place after/during a storm has something to do with this? Are these storms electrical storms? Is lightning “charging” a/the magnetic field?

This Map shows the GPS study done on these rocks done by Paula Messina. The general feeling is that these rocks are moving in a straight line, but you take a look at the movement of the individual rocks, then you'll notice that it does change radical direction - inconsistent with each other... (See this table for individual movement)

Her findings were that there are NO general "rule" for the movement of these rocks. One rock would move, while another close by would remain motionless.

3. If there is a magnetic fields, then compasses should act up in the area. There are no reports of this.

4. The rocks should have some magnetic property, i.e. should contain iron or another metal? But from what I gather it's dolomite rocks, which doesn't have magnetic properties? Dolomite is a carbon stone. (CaMg(CO3)2 )

(If this statement is wrong, please correct me.)

5. There's nothing strange or different about the Racetrack Playa compared to other desert playas.



Thomas Clements acknowledged that Racetrack Playa was not necessarily unique in its composition and climate, set out to see if the phenomenon occurred on other, similar desert playas as well.


Not enough evidence to support a magnetic field theory?



posted on Nov, 15 2005 @ 09:30 PM
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Very interesting topic. I'm not surprised at the lack of replies. I don't think most of us have any idea what could be causing this phenomena.

You obviously believe there is the possibility of paranormal activity here? What ideas are you entertaining?
If you lean more to the idea that this phenomena is more probably an unknown scientific explanation, I can easily move this thread to the ATS Science & Technology Forum. You might get more feedback there, too.



posted on Nov, 16 2005 @ 12:40 AM
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Originally posted by DontTreadOnMe
You obviously believe there is the possibility of paranormal activity here? What ideas are you entertaining?
If you lean more to the idea that this phenomena is more probably an unknown scientific explanation, I can easily move this thread to the ATS Science & Technology Forum. You might get more feedback there, too.

Honestly, I have no idea about what's causing it either. I was hoping for some theories from our ever so creative members, which we can play with.
I don't suspect paranormal activity, but what's happening in Death Valley is not natural, thus it's unnatural, not necessarily paranormal. (Whatever that's supposed to mean...)


The fact is that Science cannot explain this phenomenon satisfactory. So maybe it's time we look at it from an unscientific way?
Does "UFOs" often visit this area?
What is the history of the Racetrack Playa? Was there at some time a great battle here, or a burial ground? Are frustrated souls trapped here and "kicking" the rocks around out of boredom?

Maybe it's one of those crazy "inter-dimensional portal" hotspots. You know there are some of these "spots" all over the planet. Your compass goes crazy. Your car goes dead for no reason. Strange things happen. The most famous of course the Bermuda Triangle...

Yeah, I know. Reaching. Just trying to feed some ideas.

Actually, DontTreadOnMe, I was pondering about where to put the thread. Maybe you should move it to the Science and Tech forum? Maybe the science guys and girls can come up with other/better theories than the wind/ice/magnetic field theories?



posted on Nov, 16 2005 @ 01:11 AM
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interesting, never heard of this before



posted on Nov, 16 2005 @ 01:18 AM
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Was out there in the 1980's.

Didn't seem to me when I was there that they had rolled- rather, they seemed to have been sliding at some point in the past judging by their shape and the tracks they left. There was a huge outcrop of diorite in the dry lake bed if I remember correctly, sticking up like the submerged tip of a huge mountain drowned in a sea of mud in some ancient cataclysm.

I have no explanation for this surreal phenomenon.



posted on Nov, 16 2005 @ 01:20 AM
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I took a trip to Death Valley a number of years ago. It was great. We wanted to go see the rocks, but the road to the place required ( or at least highly recommended ) a four wheel drive vehicle, so we did not risk it. If I recall correctly it is about a 30 minute to an hour drive from the main part of the park ( its been a few years ).

Personally I buy the wet lake mud / wind hypothesis. To me it is the simplest explanation.

- McGrude



posted on Nov, 16 2005 @ 08:53 PM
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Originally posted by Gemwolf
Actually, DontTreadOnMe, I was pondering about where to put the thread. Maybe you should move it to the Science and Tech forum? Maybe the science guys and girls can come up with other/better theories than the wind/ice/magnetic field theories?

Well, since it's not really paranormal and not really science and you want to get some creative juices flowing with some uniques thoughts, perhaps Skunk Works is where this belongs:

As mentioned, this forum is for your most outlandish and extreme speculative conspiracy theory ideas. The intent is for like-minded members to engage in collaborative discussions about these theories in an environment that embraces and encourages extreme thought.



posted on Nov, 16 2005 @ 09:01 PM
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posted on Nov, 16 2005 @ 09:16 PM
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Originally posted by Yarcofin
I don't think wind or rain is enough.


Why not? I know this is a bit different, but the principles involved are still basically the same.

In the Great Lakes large sections freeze over. This ice then settles into the water from its own mass, sometimes right down to the lake bed. Then, from both water currents and winds pushing these masses of ice scrapes form on the lake bottoms.

It's basically the same thing, but with rocks instead of ice.



posted on Nov, 17 2005 @ 02:19 AM
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OK, let's try the wind and weather (water & ice) theories...

A guy named Thomas Clements was the first to investigate this theory back in 1952. His first hypothesis was that after an inundation event, the clay in the playa surface becomes extremely slippery, allowing high winds to move a rock.

An important factor in Racetrack Playa's geology is that water, both from rainfall and meltwater, never makes it to the ocean-- it runs off the mountains and collects in the low-lying basins. As water flows down the mountains, it picks up chunks of rocks, ranging in size from boulders that are larger than a house (during extreme flash floods over very steep terrain) to pebbles, sand, and microscopic minerals and clays.

Typically, the largest stones are left at the top of the mountain as the grade lessens and water flowing downhill loses speed and power. The finest particles are carried all the way to the valley floor. Over many thousands of years, infrequent desert rains and spring melts have slowly deposited clay from the surrounding mountains into the valley between them, creating the playa that exists today, layer by layer.

When Racetrack Playa is dry, its surface is tough and seems about as conducive to sliding as sandpaper. When wet, however, the clay transforms as water flows between the particles (which appear as flat plates beneath a microscope) and allows them to glide past one another nearly without friction. After a good soaking, the upper surface of Racetrack Playa "swells," its numerous cracks disappear, and it becomes one of the most slippery surfaces known.

Clements's theory that the playa surface became slippery enough for the wind to push them along seemed plausible. But Clements had another theory as well, one that would grip moving-rock researchers in a heated debate for many years to come.

Clements tested this theory at Bonnie Claire; he had noted that each rock that had moved seemed to have taken its own path, independent of the other rocks' movements. Had a sheet of ice formed, he reasoned, two or more of the rocks trapped in ice would have moved in unison. But he had observed many rocks that didn't move at all, and of the ones that did, each described a unique path. Clements concluded that ice was not necessary for the rocks to move.

In 1955, researcher George Stanley published a paper supporting the ice-floe hypothesis, citing precise measurements he had made of multiple parallel tracks inscribed by rocks.

If we take a look at this diagram by Sharp and Carey we'll note that some of the paths are not parallel. Sharp and Carey concluded due to
the non-parallel nature and the crossing of some trails
that it would be impossible for one ice sheet to be a moving agent
of these rocks. (Sharp and Carey, Fig. 14, 1976)



This compared to Reid's studies... (Click here to view their diagram.) This shows that some paths are indeed parallel. In

Since the 1950's many studies have been performed. Some of the researchers include E. Creutz and John Reid, a professor at Hampshire College in Massachusetts. Reid did extensive testing and experimenting and concluded that it would take at least 500 M.P.H. winds for even the smaller stones to move. Such winds have never been recorded on Earth. Reid contends that ice is in fact necessary to move the rocks. (This was in the mid-90's). Messina (who did the GPS study in the late 90's) believes that her research confirms those first theories put forth in 1948-- that strong, gusty winds alone do indeed blow the rocks along the playa surface after it has been inundated by water. She cites the chaotic pattern of tracks and splash marks in the dried mud as evidence that ice is not a factor. With this new equipment (GPS) new features of the trails could be detected, such as the eastern trails being more linear while the western trails are more sporadic and less linear. These features still need to be analyzed. (???)



In 1996 Sharp and Carey re-evaluated their findings and concluded with "Our conclusion is that both wind-driven ice and wind alone can create stone tracks on playas."

Now, we can clearly see that even the clever scientists with all their experiments cannot come to the same conclusion. Science cannot prove any of the theories as fact, thus they remain nothing else but theories!

Because these rocks have never moved in clear sight of any human being some people suggest placing a video camera at the site to catch the rocks in action. But Racetrack Valley is part of a wilderness-protected area, and such intrusive monitoring is not allowed.

Interesting enough an anemometer tower had been erected, in the 1950s, I believe, to quantify the wind speeds. The only problem was that the wind blew the anemometer tower down. So perhaps the videotape idea is futile, too...

One must also wonder about setting sensitive equipment and live observers out in the desert under conditions violent enough to scar rocks and move 700-pound boulders.

On this point Sharp and Carey in 1976 also stated, "It is concluded that wind moves the stones when conditions are just right, that this normally happens at least every one to three years on Racetrack Playa, and that ice sheets are not necessary." (Sharp and Carey, 1976).

The rocks movement may be a once a year occurrence, once a decade and so forth. No one knows. What bothers me is that none of these studies include temperature. Why didn't Messina include temperatures and times with her studies? If this is in fact a case of ice and wind, then the rocks should be moving in wintertime? Is this even a winter-rainfall climate?

OK, so we looked at the available information on the wind and weather theories. Not conclusive in any way!

The problem I have with this is that everyone is sticking to these theories. Isn't it time to think outside the box? Are there any members who can think of a reason why these rocks are moving other than the theories already mentioned?

But then Reid said that it would actually be a pity if someone discovered the secret of the racetrack playa. It would take some of the mystery and mystic out of life...




posted on Nov, 17 2005 @ 02:39 AM
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Originally posted by TheBandit795
Never say never! There are always ATS threads on any topic!

Grrr.... I still need some practice with the infamous "ATS Search".

But it has been over a year since the last post, so if you'll excuse me...


I read through all the previous threads and everyone keeps going at the wind, rain/water and mud theories. I'd just like to add/remind readers that most of these rocks move uphill and some rocks have tracks while others a few feet away from it lays like a rock should. Dead still! One would expect that two rocks laying next to each other would both move under the right circumstances. But they don't!!!

One of the posters in the first thread posted a link to this video. The video claims to contain footage of the phenomena. All I see is running water. No moving rocks...

So again, I'd like to hear some New Theories, because we can just go back and forth with the weather theories...



posted on Nov, 17 2005 @ 06:18 AM
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Originally posted by Gemwolf
One of the posters in the first thread posted a link to this video. The video claims to contain footage of the phenomena. All I see is running water. No moving rocks...



If you look closely you can see small rocks being swept along by the water. It makes perfect sense to me, explains why the paths aren't parallel - several rocks could be moved in the same event but in different directions according to their weight, shape (surface area presented to the water), the terrain they're moving across, etc. I'd like to see some really big rocks being moved this way, but given enough water flow I'm sure it's possible.



posted on Nov, 17 2005 @ 06:26 AM
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Originally posted by mythatsabigprobe
If you look closely you can see small rocks being swept along by the water. It makes perfect sense to me, explains why the paths aren't parallel - several rocks could be moved in the same event but in different directions according to their weight, shape (surface area presented to the water), the terrain they're moving across, etc. I'd like to see some really big rocks being moved this way, but given enough water flow I'm sure it's possible.


Fair enough. Nothing difficult to believe there. But that doesn't explain why one rock has a path and another rock a few feet away remains motionless...
AND
Why is this the only place on earth where this phenomenon occurs? There's nothing exceptional or particularly different at the Racetrack Playa. There are several other places with exactly the same conditions, yet the rocks at these places remains (relatively) motionless...

The video doesn't contain any footage of the bigger rocks being "rolled" or "sliding" and creating the tracks. A video showing water sweeping pebbles with doesn't mean anything in this case.



posted on Nov, 17 2005 @ 06:37 AM
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Originally posted by Gemwolf
But that doesn't explain why one rock has a path and another rock a few feet away remains motionless...
AND
Why is this the only place on earth where this phenomenon occurs? There's nothing exceptional or particularly different at the Racetrack Playa. There are several other places with exactly the same conditions, yet the rocks at these places remains (relatively) motionless...


Two rocks side by side don't have anything else in common except their proximity to each other. They're going to be different in size and weight, if only marginal, but they're also going to have a different shape - which makes a huge difference in resistance. Let's say both were identical size and weight, and both perfect triangle shapes. But one rock presented a flat surface to the water and one rock presented it's point. Big difference no?



posted on Nov, 17 2005 @ 07:15 AM
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Originally posted by mythatsabigprobe
Two rocks side by side don't have anything else in common except their proximity to each other. They're going to be different in size and weight, if only marginal, but they're also going to have a different shape - which makes a huge difference in resistance. Let's say both were identical size and weight, and both perfect triangle shapes. But one rock presented a flat surface to the water and one rock presented it's point. Big difference no?

Indeed. But if they are in the same proximity where one rock is moved by an obvious powerful force, then - if they are close enough to each other - both rocks should be subjected to the same force, right? Shape does not necessarily make any difference, because the theory states that the surface becomes slippery enough for the wind to move the rocks. Now this has nothing to do with the shape of the rock.
Take a look at this picture.



Notice that the bigger rock have long and "random" tracks. The smaller rock in the background looks like it has a faint track, and much shorter. Now if you were to try and move one of these rocks by force of wind or water, which one would be easier to move? The flat and much bigger one in the foreground or the smaller, rounder one in the background?
And if you applied a natural force like a strong wind or a large stream of water in this area, wouldn't you expect the rocks to move in the general direction.
It's clear that the force moved from both directions (the bigger rock made a nearly 180 degree turn) yet the smaller rock seems indifferent to this.

Is this an exception on the rule? Not at all. I couldn't find the picture I was actually looking for, which illustrated this better.
But look at this picture which shows a couple of rocks in close proximity going in opposite directions...
This picture shows how one of the rocks changes direction completely and then turns back towards the direction it was going.

Also remember that the general movement of the rocks are from South to North which means that the rocks are going slightly uphill. Wouldn't a force of water roll the rocks downhill? Or if they were "sliding" wouldn't they be sliding downhill as well?
Would the tracks be this random if only water and gravity played a roll?


Originally posted by Gemwolf
AND
Why is this the only place on earth where this phenomenon occurs? There's nothing exceptional or particularly different at the Racetrack Playa. There are several other places with exactly the same conditions, yet the rocks at these places remains (relatively) motionless...

???



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