Ep. 21: How do sailing stones move?
This week's episode answers the question how in the world do big stones in the desert move all by themselves You're listening to the how in the world podcast where we unravel some of the planet's most perplexing questions in just about ten minutes. nope. We're not scientists or scholars. We're just normal people who liked to figure things out sometimes inspiring sometimes informative. Our topics are always fascinating hosted by me, Mark Johnson and my lovely wife me Holly Johnson we do the research so you don't have to. HR is amazing. It absolutely is, and if you didn't believe us after last week's episode about how plants disperse their seeds and really cool and strange ways perhaps, you'll believe us after today's episode on sailing stones but I a disclaimer. Yeah. Let's go ahead and get this out of the way. Holly are not scientists, but we like science an have done a ton of research on this and are providing you with what we believe to be the best information possible if we get it wrong, let us know we may just do a follow. Up on it, and by the way, if you hear thunder, it's because very persistent. Thunderstorm is kind of sneaking past our house. We decided to go ahead and record anyway. So hopefully, it won't cut US off. Yes. Okay. But for some reason every time I, say sailing stones like the title of this episode I, start getting a song in my head. Is there a song called sailing stones? Yeah. Think you're thinking of the little feat song sailing shoes, which was also covered by Robert Palmer and one of my all time favorite bands grass revival. And it was covered by me when I was a musician but I digress okay. Well, that must be what I was thinking of I was thinking it might have been able to dance recital when she was like two but that was something else that was something. Okay. Anyway that things making me crazy. Okay. If you have no idea what we're talking about when we say sailing stones, we're talking about those huge rocks that appear to move by themselves. Huge rocks don't move by themselves. You say, well, these do and we know they do because of the trail they leave behind it's as if someone pushed them along but there's no. Footprints. So we know they moved on their own and the most notable occurrence of this is in Death Valley in California. It's a desert said, the trails they leave behind are really obvious they are, and we've got some cool photos of this in the show notes on our website. But let's talk for minute about where death valley is just to give a little background on this. Yeah. That sounds good. Go for it ominous named Death Valley. Yeah and it's appropriately named to death valley or Death Valley National Park is located on the border of California and Nevada and has within its borders, Sand Dunes Badlands Salt, flats, valleys mountains, and canyons. Pictures of this are truly breathtaking and it became a national park in nineteen ninety four. But the Death Valley National Monument was declared in nineteen thirty three, which was just after the end of the gold and silver boom in that area and boom is kind of a strong word because the golden silver mining in death valley didn't amount to much but borax did or acts, which is a compound deriving from Boron is commonly used as a laundry detergent booster. So you might have seen IT products called twenty mule team Borax, and that product came from death valley and was named after the twenty mule teams that transported out of the valley. I, love. Chemistry by the way. Periodic, table. Moving on Death Valley is also widely recognized as the hottest place on earth with a record temperature recording in nineteen thirteen of get this one, hundred and thirty four degrees Fahrenheit. Now, it's not usually that hot now, but it's still super hot. It's usually closer to one hundred and twenty degrees Fahrenheit. The geography of that area makes it a perfect heat bowl. It's surrounded by mountain ranges which trap the heat that rises off the ground, which by the way is at two, hundred, Eighty, two feet below sea level although that sounds like a really low elevation and it is for comparison purposes. The Dead Sea sits at thirteen hundred feet below sea level. And by the way, the Dead Sea is totally on my bucket list. Yeah. That would be a cool place to go. Okay. Thank you in actually something that Death Valley has in common with the Dead Sea is annual rainfall except in this case, the Dead Sea gets more rain each year by half an edge. Then Death Valley, the receives just to whole inches again, for comparison, will live in Tennessee where the average annual rainfall is more than fifty one and a half inches. Insane, it makes us sound like we live in the rainforest in two, thousand, fifteen, a one, thousand year flood event occurred in the valley they had just over three inches of rain that year. Anyway. We've established that death valley is really hot, really low and really dry I think we've made a case for that. Yes. But we still need to address the question of sailing stones. It's hard to move on because of the amazing history of this area. I mean I could really talk about that for a while longer, but we don't want to get too far off track I. Now I kept getting off on tangents when I was doing my research for this episode there are so many really fascinating stories. To tell, but anyway, let's talk about the moving stones. They are every single bit as fascinating as the rest of the stuff I found, and maybe we can cover the history of death valley in another episode. But for now the stones they range in size from just a few ounces or about the size of a child's fist too many hundreds of pounds and the size of a large microwave. Their occasional change in position in trails provide evidence of their movement but here's the rub nobody has seen the move. There is video. Now though in, it'll be in our show notes manager expectations because it's a time lapse. So you don't see slow smooth movements or anything. This video was taken in two thousand fourteen, and it's the first time since people started studying these rocks in the early nineteen hundreds that their movements were captured. So it's pretty cool and as far as the trails themselves, they can be as long as fifteen hundred feet and depending on whether the rock is smooth or jagged determines its path. The smooth ones are able to move in many different directions in the jagged ones primarily just move in a straight path. The paths themselves are generally three to twelve inches wide and no more than an inch deep, and sometimes the rocks can even turn over which is crazy. These rocks are found in an area of Death Valley called Racetrack. Playa. there are several theories for what makes these rocks move including the good old alien theory. And it's a fun thought aliens or not moving the rocks and the rocks are not magic although people who believe that have stolen them in that sucks. Yeah. People always have to ruin it for other people. What the heck is moving these rocks bigfoot no because he would leave giant bigfoot tracks behind and we said there's no footprints aliens. No they may be abducting us for their own evil purposes, but they're not doing this. So what is moving the stones? Well, brace yourself. I'M GONNA. Tell you ready drum roll. please. It's just nature. Walks. Oh Man I know sorry to disappoint but the nature part is actually pretty cool. The real reason behind the movement of these rocks in Racetrack Playa is a combination of the elements water, wind and ice. And it moves the rocks. We've got those four elements although death valley is really hot winter nights can be quite chilly. Any water that has accumulated on the floor of the Valley during the day freezes at night trapping the rocks in the ice as day breaks temperatures rise the ice formed overnight breaks up pretty quickly. It's only about as thick as a window pane and under the ice remains a layer of water that hasn't frozen as well as the bottom of the rock itself a hang on. So. You're telling me that there are certain times of the year where there's like actually wolf standing water there. Yes. Usually during their quote rainy season Oh. So rains it all sort of collects down in that bowl that is the the floor of the valley and then overnight it freezes the top layer really thin. There's still water underneath the raucous sitting in the water. In the ice and above okay and then as the ice breaks up, wind pushes these ice pieces which still have the rock stuck in them over the ground and the section of the rock that's under the ice digs that path in the earth is it moves like the rudder on a boat. Okay and so that's how they move. That's how they make a path. Interesting and cool. But I wish it was aliens bigfoot because I feel like that would have been more sort of engaging. Yeah. I mean, this is all SCIENC- an interesting but after so many decades of mystery solution seems a little bit like a Debbie Downer. Yeah. I mean a will over a century and this is what we get it. I mean mystery solved. That's cool. Okay. But before we end this episode I wanted to share one fact about death valley that I know you will especially love. Okay what's that Death Valley is Tattoo Wean In addition to the Tunisian desert, Tattoo, weaned from Star Wars. Four a new hope and six the empire strikes back which to us is episodes. One in three was filmed in death valley. Pretty Cool Yes. That is very cool. That makes me want to go watch those two episodes again and look for Death Valley and I'm not sure that I'd be able to distinguish between the two right. But Anyway, we hope you've enjoyed this episode of the how in the world podcast if you have any topics, you'd like us to research. Let us know by simply go to our website and that's how. In the world PODCAST DOT COM and recording yourself asking us a question. If we use your question in a future episode, you may just hear yourself on our podcast. That's right and don't forget to check out our show notes also found at our website for some really cool photos and that video we told you about if you'd like what we're doing here please tell your friends about us and leave us a five star rating subscribe wherever you get your podcasts until next week. Be Safe healthy lookout for sailing stones in stay. Curious my friends. The how in the world podcast is brought to you by hobnail trekking company ever dreamed of setting off on a life changing all inspiring adventure into the mystical Himalayas. hobnail trekking can make that dream come true with full service tracks to epic destinations, consumer, Basecamp, camp the Purna Circuit Gokyo legs and other awesome locations in the Himalayas ignore your bucket list. No longer visit hobnailed trekking co dot com that's hobnail TREKKING CO DOT COM H. O. B. In. L.. Trekking Co. dot. com.