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Death Valley Mystery: Rocks That Move On Their Own

Death Valley has many mysteries, including one of nature's strangest phenomena: rocks that move on their own.

sliding rock

Photo: Noel Jenkins (flickr)

You can see the path the rock made when it moved.

Did you know that Death Valley has rocks that move on their own? Yes, it’s true.

Scientists know the rocks move because there are paths in the sand that show the rock’s movement. So, what is causing the rocks to move?

Intriguing Mystery

One theory was that rain water moved the rocks. However, in Death Valley, it rarely rains enough to push or even float the rocks to a new location.

However, a scientist at Johns Hopkins University has a new explanation. When it does rain in Death Valley, the rain collects under the rocks. At night, when the temperature drops, the water freezes forming ice sheets. Combined with high winds, the rocks float on the ice sheets and move.

You can never tell the rocks are moving because they move at such little increments.

Future Studies

Scientists hope to install a time-lapse camera to better understand the rock’s movement.

Death Valley is similar in condition to planets like Mars, which is why scientists are so interested in how and why things happen.

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Margaret Aprison

Margaret is a graduate of Indiana University with a degree in Telecommunications and a minor in Psychology. The daughter of two scientists, Margaret has been surrounded by the subject her entire life. She enjoys social media, writing, television, and, of course, science!

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  • Ràyne South

    That's cool!

  • Stevie Stubbs

    Hmmm, maybe the rocks move under their own inertia. The planet is rotating and the rocks rotate with the planet due to gravity and friction holding them in place as the rock is not physicaly connected to the planet, however the rocks are lying on sand which in essence is like having millions of tiny little rollers underneath the rock which then lets the inertia of the planet's rotation overcome the friction force holding the rock in place, however for this to be true all the moving rocks on the same incline have to be moving in roughly the same direction.

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