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The widespread news of mysterious iron pipes at the foot of Mount Baigong, located in the depths of the Qaidam Basin, Qinghai Province, has roused concern from related departments. Some experts believe that these might be relics left behind by extraterrestrial beings (ET), for the site, with its high altitude and thin, crisp air, has long been held as an ideal place to practice astronomy. Three caves are found at the foot of Mount Baigong. Two of them have collapsed and are inaccessible. The middle one is the biggest, with its floor standing two meters above the ground and its top eight meters above the ground. This cave is about six meters in depth, a little like a cave dug out by human beings, with pure sand and rock inside.
What is astonishing is inside for there is a half-pipe about 40 centimeters in diameter tilting from the top to the inner end of the cave. Another pipe of the same diameter goes into the earth with only its top visible above the ground. At the opening of the cave there are a dozen pipes at the diameter between 10 and 40 centimeters run into the mount straightly, showing high fixing technique.
About 80 meters away from the caves is the shimmering Toson Lake, on whose beach 40 meters away, many iron pipes can be found scattered on sands and rocks. They run in the east-west direction with a diameter between 2 and 4.5 centimeters. They are of various strange shapes and the thinnest is like a toothpick, but not blocked inside after years of sand movement. More strange is that there are also some pipes in the lake, some reaching above water surface and some buried below, with similar shapes and thickness with those on the beach.
According to the Xinhua news, results of preliminary rock and metal analysis show the pipes are 30 per cent ferric oxide, with high content of silicon dioxide and calcium oxide; eight per cent of the sample’s makeup was categorized “unidentifiable”. Engineer Liu Shaolin from Xitieshan Smelting Plant who carried out the analysis says the levels of silicon dioxide and calcium oxide point to the pipes being on the mountainside for a long time – although his estimate was significantly more recent than the U.S. scientists’ original theory that the iron was 300,000 years old. Liu found that it was 5000 years old; impressive, considering modern human smelting methods date back a mere 2000 years.
Thinking of going to see the pipes? Good luck. Delingha county is closed to foreigners. And besides, the area is so cold and the air is so thin that nothing supposedly lives within 500 miles of it (?) Here is the lake from space (NASA/USGS photo). You do see the huge Grey alien head under the water with the two blue eyes at the top of the image, right? ;-)
Three years before Bai Yu took his first peek into the cave at Lake Toson, researchers Mossa and Schumacher wrote in the Journal of Sedimentary Research about fossil tree casts in Louisiana. They found cylindrical structures in the soil, thermoluminescence dated from 75-95,000 years ago. The chemical composition of the cylinders varied depending on where and when they formed and in what type of soil. The authors found that these were the fossilized casts of tree roots, formed by pedogenesis (the process by which soil is created) and diagenesis (the lithification of soil into rock through compaction and cementation). The result of this process was to create metallic pipelike structures, which by comparing the descriptions offered by researchers, appear to be a perfect match for the Baigong Pipes.
The Chinese scientists eventually did come to the same conclusion, according to the Xinmin Weekly article. They used atomic emission spectroscopy to conduct a detailed chemical analysis of the rusty pipe fragments, and found them to contain organic plant matter. Under the microscope they found tree rings, consistently throughout the samples. Once they established that the Baigong Pipes were simply fossilized tree casts, they set about to discover how they got there.
The Qaidam basin was once a vast lake, which has disappeared as the Qinghai-Tibet plateau uplifted the basin to its current elevation of about 2800 meters. Over the millennia, various floods filled the sink with runoff, alluvium, and debris including such fossils. They can now be found wherever such ancient flows deposited them, and it seems that Bai Yu was lucky enough to discover just such a pocket.
And so we end up with a complete story of how rusty iron pipes, tens of thousands of years older than any people who might have forged them, can end up embedded in solid sandstone in such a way as to baffle the average observer. Like many amateur researchers, Bai Yu stumbled upon an extraordinary discovery, but through his lack of applicable knowledge, misinterpreted what he saw. Those who underestimate the Earth's ability to produce fascinating effects are often left to grope for goofy explanations like alien construction projects. I find that the Baigong Pipes are one of the better examples of the folly of stopping at the paranormal explanation, compared to the rich rewards offered by following the scientific method to uncover what's really going on.