Well, the sailing stones aren’t a rock band, pun intended, and it isn’t a slang term for trust fund, ivy league kids who take to their yachts on the weekend, although these stones do sail frequently. The sailing stones are another great mystery of our time and a strange phenomenon found in a place called Racetrack Playa located in a lovely vacation spot known as Death Valley. A stone’s throw away from the Nevada border, Racetrack Playa is a dry, remote lakebed and home to a colony of mysterious stones that seem to move entirely on their own accord, as if manipulated by some unseen hand. The playa is nearly three miles long, a little over a mile wide, and is riddled with deep cracks, an unfortunate side effect of the blistering desert sun. These stones come in all shapes and sizes and leave a trail behind them in the dry sediment as they sail across the playa at an extremely slow pace over the course of several years. It seems that many theories have arisen as to how these stones could possibly be moving, but a true answer has never been set in stone.
A gaggle of Scientists already claim to have solved the mystery of these sailing stones. One such theory suggests that these mind-boggling stones do indeed sail, but it is by the hand of Mother Nature that they do so and not by that of invisible otherworldly being. They believe that it is her graceful command over the savage winds soaring through the playa that set these stones adrift. Since the lakebed itself is almost mathematically flat, only deviating by an inch or so over its entire three-mile stretch, this theory seems to be the logical answer. Granted, the wind in the playa can climb to an excess of eighty miles per hour, but it is still not enough force to set the larger stones in motion and the true force of wind it would actually take to move them is beyond impossible.
Another theory suggests that the phenomenon is actually caused by yearly rains that coat the lakebed, consisting of only a few inches at best, but aided by additional runoff from the surrounding mountainside. This water freezes during the harsh winter season, causing sheets of ice to form around the stones and drag them across the playa. This theory also sounds logical, but can easily be throw out due to the inconsistency of the tracks left behind the sailing stones as they wander off in other directions, sometimes even crisscrossing, instead of moving parallel like they would have to for this theory to be proven correct. Not to mention that the sheets of ice themselves would also leave additional trails in their wake as they join the stones in their quest across the playa floor.
Yet another theory suggests that the sailing stones don’t actually sail at all, but are instead moved by mischievous human hands and the occasional clumsy animal. This theory can also be easily dismissed upon inspection of the playa floor around the stones since no evidence of tampering or outside interference by cloak and dagger culprits can be found. In the less arid months when the Mojave Desert does see a minuscule amount of rainfall, the lakebed quickly turns into mud and any signs of human interaction would surely leave their impression in the playa floor, like a Hollywood actor immortalized forever by placing his footprints into wet cement. Last but not least, some of the larger stones weigh several hundred pounds and it would take the aid of machinery to move them, which would most definitely leave deep impressions in the surrounding clay.
To get the full story on why these sailing stones are slithering across Racetrack Playa, we’ll have jump back and forth throughout history. The sailing stones were discovered in the early 1900’s and the strange phenomenon causing them to move was first speculated to be the natural byproduct of magnetism. Amongst all the other theories tossed around, this was the first and the most likely to be correct, except for the fact that rocks themselves don’t have the properties to react to magnetism, but there still might be some truth to this theory. A few of the smaller stones have been studied exhaustively and the conclusion is quite shocking. It seems that these stones contain traces of a strange metal ore, similar to silver, but unlike anything else geologists have ever seen before. As opposed to ferrous metals, silver is not magnetic, but on occasion it will still react strangely when introduced into a magnetic field. This is exactly the case with the the peculiar metal marbled throughout the sailing stones, it is not magnetic, but it is mysteriously reacting to some sort of unknown field active within the area of Racetrack Playa. The earth itself has a large magnetic field, so it could just as easily be reacting to that, but accounts claim otherwise.
Even before the discovery of the sailing stones in the early 1900’s, fragments of this strange metal have been unearthed in the playa’s surrounding mountainside and carelessly taken as mementos, pocketed as intriguing trinkets, or sold along roadside curiosities shops. These artifacts are wrongly believed to be historical remnants from the time of the California Gold Rush or part of the now defunct railroads which used to spider across the Mojave Desert, but what are they really? Essentially they are believed to be a fossil of sorts, but not of any living organism and some evidence points to the area being home to a prehistoric crash site.
In 1935, the Mojave Desert found itself reliving the glory days of the great Gold Rush when a large gold vein was discovered in the immediate area. During the greed-crazed hoopla, Solomon Almquist, an adventurous miner and an expert geologist, was the first to discover this unknown and perplexing metal encased in the rocky mountainside. After years of heavy research and excavation, he released a chapbook with his findings entitled, When Will I Be Found, of which only three copies still exist today. Here is a direct quote pulled from that very chapbook, from one of the remaining copies in my personal collection. “I now have unequivocal proof that in a prehistoric era, long before mankind, an intelligence not of this earth crashed its flying craft somewhere in the rocky mountains of the Mojave Desert, but at that time it was not a barren wasteland, but instead, a treacherous and overgrown jungle.” As spoken of in this quote, Mr. Almquist claimed to have proof that over 65 million years ago a UFO malfunctioned and crashed somewhere in the vicinity of Racetrack Playa and throughout the years, it slowly began to break down and become encased in a death shroud of solid stone. The only problem is that Solomon Almquist and all of his research vanished completely, except for the three surviving copies of his chapbook.
For years upon years, the forgotten wreckage of this unknown spacecraft sat quietly as the world changed around it, until the day something seemed to activated it, something like a magnetic field. The only thing we know about this unknown metal is that it does react when introduced into a magnetic field, but not in the same way it’s reacting down at Racetrack Playa. Something in the vicinity is acting like a beacon, activating the metal fragments, and causing them to break free from their earthbound shackles, slowly pulling them towards the source of this magnetic field. Of course the speed at which these stones move is very minuet and only noticeable over the course of several years, but in late forties, this strange phenomenon began to speed up. The current rate at which the stones move is still unnoticeable to the human eye, but the new pace is drastically faster than before, as if it’s been supercharged.
Now, I know what most rational people would tend to think about such an unbelievable theory involving aliens tourists cruising around prehistoric times in their spaceships while dinosaur sightseeing, but great strides in technology have shed some frightening light on this story. With the advent of the Global Positioning System and its mapping capabilities, the once erratic paths left behind the sailing stones have been precisely mapped and a disturbing pattern emerged. The stones are all moving in the same general direction toward the Nevada border, and trust me when I say that they are not headed to Las Vegas to take in a show, because one hundred miles directly along this path lies—Area 51. You know, that infamous military base shrouded in secrecy and home to the alleged wreckage of the UFO that crashed in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. Now, you put the clues together. These stones, which were once part of the mountainside, have broken free and began a slow journey across Racetrack Playa. Now factor in that the pace of the stones mysteriously began to increase in the late forties, just as the supposed Roswell UFO was sent to Area 51, which is within a hundred mile vicinity of Racetrack Playa.
Are the sailing stones pieces of a spacecraft that met its untimely demise during prehistoric times? Was the object that the crashed in Roswell, New Mexico really an extraterrestrial salvage vehicle sent on another mission to located the long vanished spacecraft, only to succumb to the same fate. Is the wreckage at Area 51 giving off a beacon in the form of a magnetic field to call its lost brother home?
Thanks for reading,
Side Note: Solomon Almquist set up his own personal printing press and hand printed every copy of his chapbook When Will I Be Found. It is unknown why, but something made him stop after number fifty one and no further copies were printed.