Sailing Stones: Death Valley’s Creepy (Still Uncertain) Mystery

By Prev Info - October 27, 2022

Sailing Stones

Massive rocks that move on their own in the middle of Death Valley, California’s sandy terrain? Seems so, although the jury’s still out as how this weird geological phenomenon happens, but here’s what we know…


Dense stones (some as massive as 29-inches long and 700 lbs.) have been mapped sliding across Death Valley’s Racetrack Playa, leaving gouged tracks of up to half a mile.

These tracks are a bit less than one-inch deep, up to a foot wide, and are formed in straight paths, non-linear lines with sharp angles or curves and loops.

Stones with rough texture move in straight lines. Smooth stones tend to drift.

Most stones move only every two or three years and the tracks are made over three to five years. In rare cases, even longer.

No one has ever seen the stones move, nor is there any recorded video of any kind.

Sailing Stones

Possible Theories

A study in 2010 by a team of scientists (headed by Ralph Lorenz of Johns Hopkins University) claim that tiny rafts of ice form under the rocks. When the water level rises, the rocks buoyantly float along the desert bed.

In 1995, Professor John Reid’s study theorized that both strong wind as well as a wind-ice sheet moved the rocks.

A different study in 1995 suggested that compressed and continuous winds of up 90 miles per hour initiated sustained steady movement.

In 1972, Robert Sharp and Dwight Carey claimed that the perfect combination of a fine layer of clay was all it took for movement.






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