On Flickr someone with the screenname "melastmohican" has uploaded a picture of a "moving rock"
located in the Racetrack Playa region of Death Valley, California. The caption reads:
Deep in the heart of the California desert lies one of the natural world's most puzzling mysteries: the moving rocks of Death Valley. These are not ordinary moving rocks that tumble down mountainsides in avalanches, are carried along riverbeds by flowing water, or are tossed aside by animals. These rocks, some as heavy as 700 pounds, are inexplicably transported across a virtually flat desert plain, leaving erratic trails in the hard mud behind them, some hundreds of yards long. They move by some mysterious force, and in the nine decades since we have known about them, no one has ever seen them move.
I should have known about the moving rocks of Death Valley (after all, I live only a few hours drive from there), but I have to admit that, before seeing the picture, I hadn't known about them, and so immediately I thought the picture was a hoax
It reminded me of Dan De Quille's "Traveling Stones of Pahranagat Valley"
hoax from 1867. De Quille, a newspaper columnist (and roommate of Mark Twain) invented a story about some stones which "when scattered about on the floor, on a table, or other level surface, within two or three feet of each other, they immediately began traveling toward a common center, and then huddled up in a bunch like a lot of eggs in a nest."
But unlike Pahranagat Valley's traveling stones, Death Valley's moving rocks are a real phenomenon. The mysterious force that moves the stones, scientists speculate
, is most likely the wind. When the floor of the racetrack playa gets wet, the ground becomes extremely slippery, allowing strong winds to cause the stones to skid across the ground. Either that, or giants go bowling there.