The Sailing Stones of Death Valley and The Baikal Zen

Death Valley national park, on the border of California and Nevada, is a very strange place. Its strangest feature of all is the mysterious Racetrack Playa. Here, rocks drift across the flat desert landscape, seemingly propelled by no power other than their own. Known as “sailing stones” the rocks vary in size. Though no one has ever seen them actually move in person, the trails left behind the stones and periodic changes in their location make it clear that they do. The rock of Racetrack Playa are composed of the same materials that make up the surrounding mountains. They tumble down due to the force of erosion and rest on the ground below. Once they reach the level surface of the playa, the rocks move horizontally, leaving perfect tracks behind them. Scientists have observed the phenomenon and tried to explain it. In 2014 they were able to observe the movement of the stones for the first time using time – lapse photography. The result was that the sailing stones are the perfect balance of ice, water and wind. In the winter of 2014, rain formed a small pond that froze at night and melted the day after, creating a large sheet of ice that was reduced by midday to only a few millimeters thick. Driven by a light wind, this sheet broke up and accumulated behind the stones, pushing them forwards. Wow!!!

The Baikal Zen

A rare phenomenon makes rocks look like they are floating above water

In winter, Siberia’s Lake Baikal becomes the scene of a rare natural phenomenon known as “Baikal Zen”. Large stones balance on thin ice “legs” above the surface of the lake, making it seem like they are floating in the air.

Lake Baikal is so large it can be easily mistaken for a sea, it is also the deepest and oldest lake on Earth. But not all people know that mysterious thing going on there. An example is the phenomenon known as Baikal Zen. Scientists have been studying this rare phenomenon for years, and there is not an unanimously explanation for it. The phenomenon can be simply described as flat, Zen -like stones perched on thin slivers of ice, a few centimeters above the frozen surface of the lake. It is believed that bail Zen occurs when these flat Zen stones freeze on the surface of the lake, and then are heated by the sun’s rays, to the point where the ice underneath them begins to melt. However the heat is not the only cause of this phenomenon, If it were, the ice would melt uniformly, and would not ice pillars to rest on.  The strong winds that characterize the place have an important part in the creation of Baikal Zen formations, as they prevent the melting of the central pillar of ice. So while most the ice under the rocks melts from the heat, the central pillar remains as a support. So the wind has to blow if you want to assist to this amazing spectacle.

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Sara Miceli


II B – Furci Siculo


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