Mys­tery Rocks

Jp Magazine - - Mailbag -

In your ar­ti­cle “Hid­den Death Val­ley” (July ’18), you state that the rocks on the val­ley of Race­track Playa are moved (pushed) by the wind. This is in­cor­rect. They are moved by thin sheets of ice.

Greg Pasqua

Via email

Sec­ond-in-com­mand and Tech­ni­cal Ed­i­tor Stu­art Bour­don replies (it’s a lit­tle known fact that Ed­i­tor Péwé is a for­mally trained ge­ol­o­gist): “Both mech­a­nisms are con­sid­ered to be in­ter­act­ing dur­ing some win­ters to move the stones. An ex­pla­na­tion of the com­pli­cated process was too de­tailed to fit into an eas­ily read­able photo cap­tion. Those thin sheets of ice trap­ping the stones are moved by changes in water level and wind. Scripps In­sti­tu­tion of Oceanog­ra­phy used time­lapse cam­eras and GPS-de­vice em­bed­ded stones dur­ing an es­pe­cially cold and wet year to see the ice sheet–locked stones be­ing dragged along the mud by water and wind flow.”

—Stu­art Bour­don

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