Unsolved Mystery

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Comments (13)

Abdallah Bouhamidi on November 7, 2007


Jeff Sullivan on November 7, 2007

Thank you. The odd thing here is that two rocks seem to move in equal but opposite paths. That's hard to imagine if wind is the main cause of movement.

© Michael Hatten htt… on November 7, 2007


I think flash flooding is the cause of the rock movments. The clay mud becomes slick and water can literally push the rock across the ground. causing the trails.

I like the shot :)

Have a great day..

wx on November 8, 2007

Superb shot!

WorldVision on November 8, 2007

Great shot!

Did you take this picture in the Death Valley??



Jeff Sullivan on November 8, 2007

Yes, this is at The Racetrack in Death Valley. Scientists speculate that if the surface of the water freezes and the wind blows hard enough, the rocks sticking up through the ice act as sails and sheets of ice with rocks stuck down through them can skate and sail across the flat surface, moving the rocks and making trails in the mud as they pass. The mystery for these two rocks is how they could appear to have equal but opposite paths!

© Ana García de Pabl… on February 9, 2008

Perfect shot! I like it very much!

T NL on October 20, 2008

Another beautiful shot Jeff, the composition is very interesting.

Guia Arquitectura on May 30, 2009

Muy buena. Wonderful.

not1word on June 6, 2009

Ice wouldn't explain the observed paths, though. If the surface were frozen, the rocks couldn't leave the trails. I like the shot very much, for the mystery that you advance, though. I have every hope of going down to see the racetrack myself.

Jeff Sullivan on June 10, 2009

The theory was that the edges of the lake could melt, then the wind blowing the entire ice pack could move the remaining floating ice with the rocks still embedded. A smaller section of ice could cause crossing paths like this if one rock "stuck" in the mud more and caused the other to rotate around it somewhat as both moved.

Newer theories seem to indicate that the rocks most likely move by the force of extreme winds when the clay surface of the playa is wet and very slippery. It's possible that there may be more than one mode of motion.

not1word on June 11, 2009

I find it rather odd that no one has set up some long term motion capture recordings to actually see what's going on. It seems that would be the very height of simplicity, and would solve the question properly.

Stefan Hahne on September 12, 2011

Spuren - wir sind nicht alleine!

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Jeff Sullivan
Gardnerville, Nevada

Photo details

  • Uploaded on November 6, 2007
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by Jeff Sullivan
    • Camera: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi
    • Focal Length: 15.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/22.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO100