The Mysterious Sailing Stones of Death Valley

Posted on 17 November 2009 Crni

It is one big mystery that a stone that weighs more or less like a man can move on its own. This has become quite a puzzle for the past decade. The mysterious sailing stones of Death Valley have been discovered to slide over valleys that people do not live in. These valleys are filled with dry cracking muddy ground during summer and ice during winter. Many geologists have gone to all the places in Racetrack Playa and its surrounding.

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The mysterious sailing stones of Death Valley slide on very smooth ground and leave a trail behind. Some geologists came up with the conclusion that the mysterious sailing stones of death valley move through the smooth ground when the mud is wet and the stones have little ice droplets on them with the help of the wind. This is however not entirely true because the stones move during the summer when the temperature is too high and even dries the stones themselves.The mysterious sailing stones of Death Valley not only slide on smooth ground but dig and leave shallow track in their wake.

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The mysterious sailing stones of Death Valley are a magnificent phenomenon in the sense that they can take different turns around each other. This is mind challenging because the mysterious sailing stones of Death Valley start moving in a parallel direction.

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As the years proceed, each stone takes its own different path. Some stones make linear turns others make oval turns while others create a wavy shape on their tracks. No one has ever seen them move and nobody knows the speed they move with. The mysterious sailing stones of Death Valley turn while they are sliding through the flat leveled valley and this leaves different tracks behind them. Some stones move further than others over two to five years.

Via Izismile.

56 Comments For This Post

  1. e cigarette Says:

    This is insane to me… I have no idea how this happens.

  2. Peter Says:

    Why don’t someone do a time lapse of them??

  3. eb Says:

    this is such shit. there is no magic, its caused by ice flows, and there is a video that explains exactly how this phenomenon occurs. its cool in its result, but its rather simple in its explanation. of course the bottom feeders on the internet who believe in vortexes in the desert but somehow dont believe in the moon landing, well, feast on my friends…. feast on.

  4. Thom Barsch Says:

    Probably a geological feature. I am guessing that the mud flats act like a bass speaker cone. Something causes it to vibrate and thus the rocks are moved along the surface. Death Valley is pretty narrow, the vibrations could be from thunder reverberating off the mountains back and forth across the valley. Easy way to find out, glue a tom tom to the top of a couple of them, and then analyze the data.

  5. Snarfer Says:

    I’ve been to this place (the “race track”). It’s one of the more mysterious sites you can see while visiting Death Valley.

  6. Wave Says:

    Research shows that they Move on a layer of ice formed in the winter season, and are pushed by strong winds.

  7. Wave Says:

    Exactly as “eb” stated.

  8. WestTexasGeologist Says:

    Aliens I tell you Aliens! prove me wrong… you cant!

  9. WestTexasGeologist Says:

    giant magnets — Colonel O’neil SGC…. proof on alien activity!

  10. hann Says:

    they’re aliens.
    i thought that would have been obvious.

  11. noob Says:

    live golems perhaps?

  12. al Says:

    who cares if rocks move on their own summer or winter defying laws of motion and gravity, try investigating angel feathers, they appear all over the place

  13. astig Says:


  14. tall man Says:

    Well, i guess, it is because in winters when there is ice formed in this place and heavy cold winds blow, it causes these stones to move.. What else…

  15. carla Says:

    heh, maybe its a supernatural force tryin to spell, like an echa–skech
    or more likely magnetic fields pulling natural metals in the rocks..

  16. Zerotolerance Says:

    I think some bad ass guys was put ounder them wery strong snails

  17. Best answer Says:

    use your LOGICAL THINKING!
    There are no such monsters that move the stone!

  18. David G Says:

    man you are all wrong! its just some old guy out there moving them to play with peoples heads! his names Cleatus and he only has 3 teeth! nice guy though! very strong for his old age.

  19. karan Says:

    take stone from here to different place & see they are moving or not

  20. Jeremy Tan Says:

    I have a theory on this,
    Due to the grooves in the desert in kinda acts like a railway on a train track, therefore as expansion and contraction occurs on the rock and the ground, the rocks are forced to move due to this constant change in temperature. which is why you get this sliding effect. And to explain the digging it just varies how big or how small the rock is. The bigger the rock the deeper the trail it leaves, the smaller the rock a less visible trail is seen.

  21. Sara Says:

    Maybe the rocks have some sort of magnetic attraction or something?? Or its gravity getting weak?? haha

  22. Kittyismaster Says:

    I think they’re some new(to us) kind of species that communicates telepathically. I wonder if they smell like sulfur?

  23. nicoleredz3 Says:

    Oh, man… I give up! I have no clue what’s going on here or anything… No explanation…

  24. Read the descriptions Says:

    If you read what the site states it says that it cannot be because of ice flows. How then, do the rocks move by themselves in the summer? Which they do!
    I don’t think it’s magnetic attraction, there isn’t much metal in the rocks, because they’re mostly Carbon, which isn’t attracted to ‘magnets’, other substances are attracted to other objects through gravity. Maybe, because the mountains around the valley are so big, it causes some gravity in the horizontal? Extremely slowly moving the rocks in that direction? I could be completely wrong. xD

  25. Ray Says:

    Maybe they’re just lost rock stars, trying to get home.

  26. nightkraawler Says:

    I would like to go with rock people that call themselves the rolling stones and they are looking for shade…

    however this doesnt appear to be the mistery people made it out to be…..some of the rocks have a layer of dried mud at their base ..which can be seen in these pics ….you can figure out the rest…

  27. Joey Says:

    Oy, I watched a documentary on PBS and contrary to popular (retarted belief) it as actually the wind over the course of many years. Don’t believe me, look it up on

  28. sunwukong Says:

    Great photos. There is a valley in the mountains south of Horse-Tooth resivoir west of Fort Collins Colorado. There the stones are as big as cars and most of the movement is north to south (if I remember right). My mom told me that the rocks moved because of glaciers. But when you look at them it is not hard to imagine that they are moving while you watch.

  29. JackAssin Says:

    I’ll have to go to that youtube link. I was wishing it was a vortex, though :-( There is a vortex in southern Illinois called the Max Creek Shimmy, no kidding!

  30. Ron Says:

    I know rocks with 2 legs that move less then those!!! LOL

  31. Dave Says:

    It’s a prank! If you look really closely at the pictures again you can see an almost invisible see through plastic strap someone used to pull the stones! LOL!

  32. xodarap Says:

    For my money I’d say the movement is caused by daily expansion and contraction of all the surface of the rock that is exposed to sun and air. The underside of each rock and the hard packed dirt underneath each rock will stay pretty much the same temperature day and night.

    If there is a bit more dirt against one of the sides of the rock, that will provide a bit more insulation on that side so there will be a tiny bit less expansion and contraction of the rock surface thus shaded. Each day the exposed surface of the rock expands [as does the exposed soil surface] which means the outer edges of the base of the rock expands more than the middle of the underside so there is a force out and down at the edges. If this is slightly less at the slightly more shaded bit, there will be a net force of the rock pushing against the ground which is less on that [slightly more] shaded side. Net result is the rock pushed in that direction by the [Newton’s third law] net reactive force of the ground.

    At night the air cools rapidly as does the outer exposed surface of the rock but the hidden parts don’t. This reduces the downward force around the edges as the middle underneath takes more of the weight. This compacts the ground more underneath giving it more resistance. Repeat as necessary; on this theory the rocks are actually always traveling “up hill” up a tiny slope they create as they bulldoze an insulating bow wave of dirt.


  33. nerj Says:

    The simple theory for that is this:
    a)First, as the stones is big, it is heavy enough, not to really moving, sliding, skidding or whatever.Due to the pull of earth’s gravity, it stays right into his place, unless something, or someone like animal or human, push or move it along sideways.
    b)Second, all the mud that surround this stones are the ones who really moves, leaving behind a trail mark as it passes through those stones.

    Explanation: As the Newton’s law of universal gravitation states that every massive particle in the universe attracts every other massive particle with a force which is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.
    (Separately it was shown that large spherically-symmetrical masses attract and are attracted as if all their mass were concentrated at their centers.)(from Wikipedia)

    Gravitation, or gravity, is one of the four fundamental interactions of nature, along with strong interaction, electromagnetic force and weak interaction. It is the means by which objects with mass attract one another.[1] In everyday life, gravitation is most familiar as the agent that lends weight to objects with mass and causes them to fall to the ground when dropped. Gravitation causes dispersed matter to coalesce, thus accounting for the existence of the Earth, the Sun, and most of the macroscopic objects in the universe. It is responsible for keeping the Earth and the other planets in their orbits around the Sun; for keeping the Moon in its orbit around the Earth; for the formation of tides; for convection, by which fluid flow occurs under the influence of a density gradient and gravity; for heating the interiors of forming stars and planets to very high temperatures; and for various other phenomena observed on Earth.(from Wiktionary)

    So, as the stone is an object that has “mass” or weight it is pulled downward by the earths gravity, to “stick”,or “stay” to its place and not to move side ways in any direction.

    When the rain pours or snow melts on this area, the water scattered around the place turning the dry land wets and making it into a sticky flowing mud, enough to move the mud surface by the continous heavy winds blow. As time elapsed, wet flowing mud passes in each stone around the area, and the sun dries again all the surrounding mud into a dry land, leaving behind a trail mark beside the stone, as if the stone is the one moving or sliding on the surface.

    The trail mark from the stone up to end or tail of the trail mark is also the direction of the wind blowing on the mud surface while it is still wet. Not the other way around as the people sees it, believing that the stone is the one moved by the wind, magnetic pull, alien,or any invisible energy,starting from the “trail end or tail” mark, up to the length and until the stone stop,(just like on movies, what the meteors look like when it hits the earth and skidded on the land surface)

    You can make a simple experiment on this, put a wet sticky mud enough to flow side ways,(just like you see on a “mud wrestling video”) on top of a rectangular piece of plywood about 1ft.wide and 2ft length,or any flat surface that can be move or tilt up and down on its side. Flattened it around with a thickness of maybe 1/2 inch or 1 inch depends on how deep the “trail mark” you would like to see.

    On the middle of the “mud” put a stone the size of a “clinched wrist” heavy enough that it will not move or slide when you tilt the ply wood. Then, slowly tilt the side of the plywood up, until the mud surface flows down passing through the stone. See how the mud flows on both side of the stone thus making a trail mark. On that tilted position of a plywood place it under the sun until it dries. The tilting procedure is a much faster to “make the mud flow” than to blow air by mouth or elect fan, in this experiment.

    Thanx! to all interested parties who read this, any comments is highly appreciated, by the way i’m not a scientist, just a simple individual who studied and analyze any problem by just common sense and accidentally experienced the “phenomenom” in my surroundings.

  34. nerj Says:

    (“On the middle of the “mud” put a stone the size of a “clinched wrist” heavy enough that it will not move or slide when you tilt the ply wood”.)

    On the sentence above, the word “clinched wrist” should be “clinched fist or hand”

  35. Jason Says:

    I’m sorry, but I had trouble caring about your overreaction to this phenomenon because I was too distracted by your atrocious writing. Honestly, it read as though written by a freshman in high school. Truly abysmal 0/10.

  36. Serge Says:

    That youtube movie does not look very scientific to me, and i did not see a stone moving in it.

    Nerj, i did not do your experiment because it can not be compared with the death valley situation. Maybe it are big stones, but they are not rocks anchored on the valley floor. These stones are laying on the surface of the mud. The mud has a higher mass, so when the mud moves the stones will move with it. Also, if it was the mud that moves underneath the stones, there should be an accumulation of mud on the rock at the opposite side of the tracks. I suppose in your experiment the stone rests on the plywood and not on the surface of the mud, what of course is only possible with partial dried mud.

    If they had moved on a layer of ice, there would not be tracks, because the stones do not touch the mud in this case.

    I think it is the gravity, because gravity does not only tear objects down, but also make objects roll or slide down a slope. If it is a light slope, they move slowly (compare with glaciers). If the surface is not perfectly horizontal and if the objects are not anchored they will move during time.
    And the movement can speed up if the surface is vibrating. And that is what Thom Barsch said in one of the first comments. But stronger vibrations can be earthquakes, what could explain why the stones change directions.

    But some scientists must already know the truth. If they can explain geological phenomenas on Mars, why should they not know about this. I guess they keep it silent because mysteries attract more tourists.

  37. Ivan Says:

    This site has some of the most poorlyest written articles on the entirest of the internet.

  38. nerj Says:

    Hey! Wake up “atrocius guy”, don’t you 4get ur on this site “Planet Oddity?”, So, everything here, the people, their works, the featured articles, the post, the comments and even their “writings” are all at “odds”
    Besides, I wrote this w/ those Asian high school students in mind. Thinking, that this might be of great help for them, while doing their research work in science proj.,to give them an idea about this phenomenon.
    And still, don’t you see my notes there that say ” I’m not a scientist” who happens to be some of them holding a “Ph.D” or “Masters Degree” in English, in real life?.
    And “I’m a simple individual” hence, “I wrote this in just “simple english”
    So, If you’re looking for a “perfect literary writings”, I suggest you personally go to the “Library of Congress” not on this site.
    You might be good in english(?) but,for me, I’m just trying to be good in finding the truth and the facts about the oddities and optical phenomenon around us. And, that’s two different things to two different people.
    Instead of attacking other people’s writing, why don’t you just try to give a serious explanation on any one of the article posted here, in your “own words”?. Peace!

  39. ThisGuy Says:

    porliest is not a word

  40. Daniel Says:

    Wow. Not for the content, which is easily explained, but for the lack of writing skills.

  41. fihyc Says:

    The 6th image gives off an illusion that it’s a clear crystal.

  42. RhinoGanja Says:

    They viewed it from space, and the lines draw a giant vagina.

  43. vinny Says:

    so no one thinks they’re on their way to visit Stonehenge?

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  45. MartyFive Says:

    First of all I would like to point out that it is absolutely asinine that no video exists of these rocks actually moving. Apparently we have the technological ability to put a rover on Mars but lack the ability to build a monitoring station that can watch the stones in real-time while recording, and simultaneously withstanding, the environmental conditions of the area. As an engineer I find this to be absolutely appalling. So much money has been spent researching this phenomenon, yet there are only hypotheses to show for the effort while the actual motive force remaining a mystery. This is absolutely unbelievable.

    Okay, with that rant out of the way, let us consider some possibilities. The ice flow hypothesis seems to be a possibility. Contrary to another poster’s assertion, the stones would leave a track since the ice would form around them, thus allowing the bottom of the stones to continue depressing the earth below the surface of the ice. However, and as noted by another poster, the stones appear to move during times when no ice is present, so the ice hypothesis does not offer a viable explanation for the apparent year-round movement, nor does it explain why some rocks move while other rocks that were in close proximity to one that moved remained motionless. Additionally, when you consider that an ice sheet would drag all trapped rocks in the same path, the ice hypothesis fails to explain why rocks that move concurrently can take different paths.

    Another hypothesis involves nothing more than water and exceptionally strong wind. With the playa softened by water, it would seem possible that the rocks could be pushed along by the wind. Of course this hypothesis is difficult to accept because it seemingly fails to explain why a larger rock may move while a smaller neighboring rock may remain completely motionless. Additionally, one would expect that if the wind were able to achieve a velocity sufficient to push a rock along the playa’s surface it should also cause some of them to tumble instead of always simply sliding along. All of this, however, can be explained by the fact that wind speed and direction across the playa may be highly varied, and, in fact, some of the rocks do indeed flip over. As for the larger rock moving while it’s smaller neighbor stands still, it may come down to math. The force exerted upon a rock by the wind will be directly proportional to the size and shape of the rock’s surface that the wind is pushing upon. A small rock, with a more aerodynamic shape, could conceivably remain still while a larger neighboring rock, with a larger and less aerodynamic shape, may move.

    Ultimately, this phenomenon should be monitored by a permanently placed, remotely monitored, scientific data acquisition station. If systems can be sufficiently hardened to withstand the launch into space, the landing upon another planet, and the environment of said planet, I think that we should be able to definitively answer the question of what the motive force behind the movement is and lay this mystery to rest once and for all. In fact, the monitoring station could even feed its data to a website so we can all watch the rocks and monitor the weather conditions on the playa in real-time.

    Now I would like to address Dr. Paula Messina directly (should she ever view this): 10+ years, and you still don’t know? That is ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. An engineer could have solved this mystery in one year or less. You have studied this phenomenon longer than any other scientist. The only plausible explanation for your ineffectiveness as a scientist is the fact that if you solved the mystery your funding would go away and the camping trip would be over. Stop tracking the movement and setup a satellite-linked monitoring station. We get it, the rocks move. However, your failure to identify the motive force after over a decade of study only serves to help perpetuate the ignorance of people who think the motive force is generated by the gravity of the surrounding mountains, energy vortices, aliens, love, etc. Clearly the task of solving this mystery was more than a geologist could handle, even one with a Ph.D. You have had ample time to solve this mystery, and your credentials should have provided you with the necessary tools, allowed you to gain the necessary permission, even allowed you to recruit additional help from experts in the field of remote monitoring to do so. I am of the opinion that you have failed and are undeserving of your tenure.

  46. Mike Hunt Says:

    There’s no question that these rocks were brought to earth by the same aliens who brought the stone statues on Easter Island and Stonehenge.

  47. markus groeteke Says:

    nothing more than a decent photoshop work!

    markus groeteke

  48. R315r4z0r Says:

    That ice theory, while it does make sense in that situation with smaller rocks, doesn’t account for:
    -Excessivly heavy rocks that can’t be lifted with a few inches of water.
    -Rocks that move when there has been no rain water.
    -Large depressions left in the ground from the movement of the rock.

    If water was the cause of the movement of rocks, then the depressions left behind wouldn’t remain jagged, they would be smoothed. Have you ever made a sand castle or something on the beach and watch it get hit with water when the tide comes in? The water flows over it and makes all the rough sand designs into smooth surfaces.

  49. Tom Says:

    This is a wind push this a stones?

  50. vikas sharma Says:

    this is just due to contraction…and expention….of the soil..beneath the stone…because the tempreture…of the soil under stone and near soil of stone is diffrent ..because..due to pequlier conditions of weather…due to this …the molecule..of soil..changes..its stat…

  51. Prof. David Thewler Says:

    vikas sharma (December 23rd 2010 @ 11:49am), evidently English is not your first language, but if you cannot spell or write it correctly then don’t bother; write in your first language.

    When you spout not only incorrectly spelled and grammatically incoherent non-words, but also nonsensical, factually incorrect pseudo-science, you reinforce the stereotype of persons from southern Asian descent as simple, bewildered ignorants.

    So how about thinking before you offer an opinion, to ensure it is correct – then you will benefit yourself, ensure the validity your opinion, impress others and help to rid the world of the stereotype that is oft used as a basis to justify racism by the actual ignorant folk.

    …And in case anyone is still in any doubt about the cause of the “sailing stones”:
    – The runoff from melted ice is blown by desert winds up the playa and covers the stones.
    – The waters then freeze due to overnight low temperatures, trapping the stones in an ice sheet.
    – This ice sheet is then blown by the strong desert wind and drags the stones with it, gouging the earth beneath it, creating the tracks.
    – The morning comes, the ice melts and the cycle begins again.

  52. ADTroy Says:

    this proves that everything nature born or created is a spirit just like us human beings….

  53. Vijay Says:

    There must have been a river flowing there, and these were the rocks which got dragged

  54. so Says:

    if the movement is because of earth’s constant movement, there is something unusual that s on the very first picture, the one stone on your left side

  55. stevEb4444 Says:

    Nerj you no speeekee English well leave India come to a US college and start to think. Then give an answer that works!!!!

  56. The sane one Says:

    Did anyone actually read the article? They CLEARLY stated that the ice hypothesis could not be because it happens in the summer time.

    That being said I agree with this guy;

    Thom BarschNo Gravatar Says:
    November 20th, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Probably a geological feature. I am guessing that the mud flats act like a bass speaker cone. Something causes it to vibrate and thus the rocks are moved along the surface. Death Valley is pretty narrow, the vibrations could be from thunder reverberating off the mountains back and forth across the valley. Easy way to find out, glue a tom tom to the top of a couple of them, and then analyze the data.

    As for you angel feathers guy… who said angels had wings besides Hollywood?

    Until I see some scientific DNA testing they are just white feathers…

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