For decades, the enigmatic phenomenon of stones mysteriously moving across the dried-up lakebed of Racetrack Playa in California has puzzled researchers worldwide. These stones, some weighing up to 300 kilograms, leave trails on the cracked lake surface, appearing to move autonomously.
In 1952, a photo report in the American magazine Life initially sparked wonder by depicting these stones moving without apparent intervention. Far-fetched theories such as extraterrestrial intervention or magnetic forces were quickly dismissed.
The theory of strong winds
Early explanations suggested that strong winds, sometimes reaching up to 140 km/h, could be responsible for the stone movement, especially when the ground was covered with a thin layer of frozen water after winter precipitation.
However, in 1976, an on-site experiment conducted by American scientists contradicted this theory.
The mystery of moving stones in Death Valley resolved in 2013
It wasn’t until 2013 that the mystery was finally solved. Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, had the idea to equip around fifteen rocks with GPS trackers. Cameras were set up around the study area, and the stones were left on the ground for two years as part of this scientific experiment.
The winter of 2013-2014 saw abundant precipitation and freezing temperatures. The lakebed surface was covered with a thin layer of water that froze at night, entrapping the stones. At midday, under the sun’s action, the ice layer cracked into large slabs pushed by a light breeze.
These ice slabs carried the stones, leaving tracks in the dried lake soil. Some stones moved two to three meters per minute, and the fastest stone traveled 224 meters during the 2013 experiment.
Variable weather conditions
It’s important to note that the phenomenon of moving stones doesn’t occur every year. Its frequency depends on winter precipitation and specific weather conditions, such as nighttime freezing followed by exposure to the sun.
The mystery of stones moving mysteriously across the Racetrack Playa lakebed in California has finally been resolved through a combination of scientific experimentation, GPS technology, and particular weather conditions.
This fascinating phenomenon, which intrigued the world for decades, is now explained by the formation of ice slabs pushed by the wind, carrying the stones and leaving tracks in the dry lakebed. Once again, science has provided an answer to an apparently unsolvable mystery.