You might have heard, like many Discovery News readers, of the weird moving rocks of Death Valley – the ones with the long, curving trails behind them. No one’s ever seen how these huge boulders skate across the desert until now:
The first witnesses to an enduring natural mystery are an engineer, a biologist and a planetary scientist who met thanks to a remote weather station.
Now, with video, time-lapse photographs and GPS tracking of Racetrack Playa’s moving rocks, the mystery has finally been solved.
agged plates of thin ice, resembling panels of broken glass, bulldoze the rocks across the flooded playa, the scientists reveal today (Aug. 27) in the journal PLOS One. Driven by gentle winds, the rocks seem to hydroplane atop the fluffy, wet mud.
“It’s a wonderful Goldilocks phenomenon,” said lead study author Richard Norris. “Ponds like this are vanishingly rare in Death Valley, and it may be a decade between heavy enough rain or snowfall events to make a substantial pond,” said Norris, a paleobiologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California.