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Time-Lapse and GPS Data Proves It’s Not Ghosts Moving Death Valley’s Mysterious ‘Sailing Stones’


Since the early 20th century, people have been studying and theorizing how some rather heavy rocks in Death Valley called ‘Sailing Stones’ somehow glide across the dry, desert floor of what is often the hottest location in the United States.

And while a number of feasible theories had come to light, it’s only recently that one of these theories was proven thanks to a dedicated time-lapse camera setup.


With the help of a weatherproof camera set up to take a time-lapse, the mysterious stones were caught in the act of moving along the desert floor. Their method of propulsion? Ghosts? Robots? Alien life forms? The Toys from Toy Story bored on a Saturday? None of the above, actually.

The stones moved by a phenomenon known as an ‘ice shove’ — the act of objects moving across a surface when wind and temperature changes cause temporary ice sheets capable of moving large objects.

Naturally, such a theory was difficult to explain, considering the consistently high temperatures of Death Valley, but Oceanographer Richard Norris and his Engineer cousin James Norris managed to prove the theories with their findings.

In the video below, Norris explains the phenomenon at play in greater detail:

To find out more about this solved mystery, head on over to PLOS One where they’ve posted their findings in detail.

Their next mission? See if this time-lapse/GPS combo can figure out where all of the missing socks go… Okay, not really. But my lonely socks would appreciate it.

(via Engadget)