Sailing stones on Racetrack Playa
Racetrack Playa in Death Valley, California is home to a group of stones which have, on occasion, slid hundreds of meters across the dry lake bed. New data on wind shear from a similar playa, Owens Dry Lake, about 80 km SSE of Racetrack Playa, and data on the velocities of wind gusts across these playas are consistent with threshold coefficients of static friction that allow for the motion of 30 of the 31 rocks for which data are available.
© 1996 by The University of Chicago. The authors wish to acknowledge conversations with Peter Haff and Robert Sharp that were useful in understanding this remarkable phenomenon. We also thank Charlie Peck and Jeff Schweitzer for catching one of our errors in the first version of this paper. The financial support of the Physics 11 program at Caltech is gratefully acknowledged as well.
Published - 386600.pdf