Somewhere, in the middle of the desert known as Death Valley, at a place known as Racetrack Playa, strange events have been unfolding for an untold number of years. You see, Racetrack Playa isn’t your normal kind of racetrack. There are no horses thundering down the stretch towards the finish line. There are no cars circling an oval in a quest for the white checkered flag. There is no roar of the crowd to cheer for their favorite horse or driver. There is only wind, silence and stones.
And yet stones of all shapes and sizes continue to inch their way across the floor of the dried lake bed. Some of them are mere pebbles and some weigh as much as seven hundred pounds. Evidence of their movement is left in the tracks they leave etched across the desert floor. Stones with rough bottoms tend to travel in a straight line while stones with smooth bottoms create a zigzag pattern. It’s as if they were somehow on a journey of their own to a secret destination. Are they responding to the voice of Ludo from the movie Labyrinth who could summon the rocks with a call of his voice or is it some other kind of calling that only they can hear that keeps them on their way?
Let’s take a look at some of the theories that scientists have been bandying about over the years to try and explain away this strange phenomena.
Racetrack Playa is approximately three miles long and a mile and a half wide. It is virtually flat and the surface area varies less than an inch from beginning to end. One of the original theories is that the desert winds, which can gust up to eighty miles an hour, are the force that propels them. After further study, this was deemed unlikely since the force it would take to move a seven hundred pound stone would have to be much more intense and sustained.
The next theory contends that the stones are driven by the yearly runoff caused by rains that fall on the nearby mountains. During the winter months the runoff freezes in the cold desert night and form subsequent sheets of ice that surround the stones. As the ice melts, it creates a platform on which the stones can slide. This too has proved unlikely since the stones would all travel in the same direction rather than embark on such a wandering path.
Another theory is that this all some kind of grand hoax, much like the infamous case of the crop circles, perpetrated by humans. This too has been laid to rest since no evidence has been found such as tracks or machinery has been found to indicate any kind of chicanery.
Yet another theory suggests that the force of magnetism is responsible for the stones movement. The stones do indeed have some strange properties but none are subject to the pull of the earth’s magnetic field.
Finally, there’s the theory that expounds that the Playa itself is the result of an ancient UFO crash site and the stones are reacting to forces yet to be discovered. After all, Area 51 is not too far from the Playa and believers of alien visitors have been shouting for years about the goings on in Roswell and the perception of a government cover up.
To this day though, the Sailing Stones of Death Valley still remain a mystery.
Here's an image of just one stone as it creeps across the desert floor. If you ask me, it looks like it's taken from another planet.
Here's another one courtesy of user vonCube.