The Mysterious Sailing Stones of Death Valley

Ahoy there sailing stone

Sailing stones, sliding rocks, and moving rocks all refer to a geological phenomenon where rocks move in long tracks along a smooth valley floor, known as Racetrack Playa, without human or animal intervention. They have been recorded and studied in a number of places around Racetrack Playa, Death Valley, where the number and length of travel grooves are notable. The force behind their movement is not confirmed and is the subject of research for which several hypotheses exist.

The stones move only every two or three years and most tracks develop over three or four years. Stones with rough bottoms leave straight striated tracks while those with smooth bottoms wander. Stones sometimes turn over, exposing another edge to the ground and leaving a different track in the stone’s wake.Trails differ in both direction and length. Rocks that start next to each other may travel parallel for a time, before one abruptly changes direction to the left, right, or even back the direction it came from. Trail length also varies – two similarly sized and shaped rocks may travel uniformly, then one could move ahead or stop in its track.

Most of the so-called sailing stones originate from an 850 ft-high (260 m) hillside made of dark dolomite on the south end of the playa, but some are intrusive igneous rock from adjacent slopes (most of those being tan-colored feldspar-rich syenite). Tracks are often tens to hundreds of feet long, about 3 to 12 inches (8 to 30 cm) wide, and typically much less than an inch (2.54 cm) deep.

A balance of specific conditions are thought to be needed for stones to move:

-a saturated yet non-flooded surface
-a thin layer of clay
-very strong gusts as initiating force
-strong sustained wind to keep stones going

On the Web:


Savannah’s Bonaventure Cemetery


It’s that famous place where John Berendt shared martinis by gravesites in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Bonaventure Cemetery was developed on the historically-significant site of Bonaventure Plantation. The peaceful setting rests on a scenic bluff of the Wilmington River, east of Savannah. The site was purchased for a private cemetery in 1846 and became a public cemetery in 1907.


In his A Thousand Miles Walk,  The Audubon Society founder John Muir wrote about Bonaventure this way after spending the night there:

“Bonaventure is called a graveyard, a town of the dead, but the few graves are powerless in such a depth of life. The rippling of living waters, the song of birds, the joyous confidence of flowers, the calm, undisturbable grandeur of the oaks, mark this place of graves as one of the Lord’s most favored abodes of life and light.”

Citizens and others can still purchase interment rights in Bonaventure. This charming site has been a world famous tourist destination for more than 150 years due to the old tree-lined roadways, the many notable persons interred, the unique cemetery sculpture and architecture, and the folklore associated with the site and the people.


The entrance to the cemetery is located at 330 Bonaventure Road and is the largest of the municipal cemeteries containing nearly 100 acres. The cemetery is open to the public daily from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


The American Castle

Boldt Castle

It’s the grandest of all Gilded Age mansions, and the setting of a tragic love story

At the turn-of-the-century, George C. Boldt, millionaire proprietor of the world famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, set out to build a full size rhineland castle in Alexandria Bay, on picturesque Heart Island.  The grandiose structure was to be a display of his love for his wife, Louise.

Beginning in 1900, the Boldt family spent summers in the 1000 Islands at the Boldt Families Wellesley House near Mr. Boldt’s Wellesley Island Farms while 300 workers including stonemasons, carpenters, and artists fashioned the six story, 120 room castle, complete with tunnels, a powerhouse, Italian gardens, a drawbridge, alster tower (children’s playhouse) and a dove cote. Not a single detail or expense was spared.

In January 1904, tragedy struck. Boldt telegraphed the island and commanded the workers to immediately “stop all construction.” Louise had died suddenly. A broken hearted Boldt could not imagine his dream castle without his beloved. Boldt never returned to the island, leaving behind the structure as a monument of his love.

For 73 years, the castle and various stone structures were left to the mercy of the wind, rain, ice, snow and vandals. When the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property in 1977, it was decided that through the use of all net revenues from the castle operation it would be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations.

Since 1977, several million dollars have been applied to rehabilitating, restoring and improving the Heart Island structures.


Vitello Tonnato: The Perfect Course for Italy’s Ferragosto Summer Festival

Vitello Tonnato

Vitello Tonnato a classic Tuscan summer dish that pairs perfectly with dark Italian wine


One of the classic summer dishes, this is also the traditional centerpiece of the Ferragosto, an Italian summer festival in the month of August that celebrates the end of summer harvest.

Wine Pairing: If I am having a luxurious, tender meat like veal, bring out the rich, dark Italian wine like Chianti Riserva. The meat is young, the wine is aged. It’s a perfect match!

2 pounds veal (cutlets, pounded very thinly)
10 oz. tuna packed in oil, drained
4 egg yolks, hard boiled
4 salted anchovies (the canned variety, sold at a salumeria or deli)
1/4 cup pickled capers
1/2 cup (approx.) olive oil
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
Juice of a lemon
Sea salt and cracked pepper

A few more pickled capers (may use large capers with stems, as well) some lemon slices, and sprigs of parsley.

Hard boil the eggs and remove the yolks (save the whites for another dish). Mince the capers. Using a food processor, pulse the minced capers, vinegar, lemon juice, egg yolks, drained tuna, and the olive oil, until it becomes a thick, smooth sauce. Transfer sauce to a sealable container and refrigerate.
With a grill on medium-high heat, grill the veal cutlets. They are thin, so it should only take about a minute on each side. Remove from grill and refrigerate. (You may use a grill pan on the stove if you do not have a grill).

When the veal has cooled, lay the slices out on one or more platters (you want just one layer). Spread the sauce over the veal, garnish the platters with the lemon slices, more capers and parsley. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Buon appetito!


Shin Kicking: A 17th Century Sport Gets A Kickstart




Thousands of fans gather every year to watch the annual shin-kicking championships which date back to the 17th Century. 16 competitors battled it out in the vicious contest in Gloucestershire where they grasp each others shoulders and quack at their rivals shins. The sport dates back to 1636 when it formed part of the Robert Dover Olimpick Games and was said to be even more violent.


Wearing traditional white smocks and with their socks stuffed with protective straw, fighters then have to push their competitors to the ground after landing a good kick.

While the shin-kickers left with cuts and bruises they should consider themselves lucky — steel toe caps were banned from the event in the 1950s and before that broken legs were commonplace.

I think I like cycling much better.


Poland’s Crooked Forest

Surrounded by a larger forest of straight growing pine trees this collection of curved trees, or “Crooked Forest,” is a mystery.

Surrounded by a larger forest of straight growing pine trees this collection of curved trees, or “Crooked Forest,” is a mystery.

In a tiny corner of western Poland, in Gryfino (not far from Szczecin) a forest of about 400 pine trees grow with a 90 degree bend at the base of their trunks – all bent northward.

Crooked Forest MapUpon further research, and because of the uniformity of age of the trees, I suspect this is a man-made curvature.  If that’s true, the best explanation would be that these trees were trained as “compass timbers” for shipbuilding or as material for other woodworking.


For the Love of…..Saturn!

Lots of Waving Going On!

Lots of Waving Going On!

This mosaic is made up of 1400+ images of Earthlings waving at Saturn, in celebration of the July 19 Cassini spacecraft photo shoot of Earth and Saturn’s rings.

SATURN will disappear into the sunset twilight in late October, only to re-emerge in morning skies in mid-November.

On the Web:

See a larger image of this cool mosaic

See Cassini’s July 19 images

More on observing Saturn in 2013


Saturday Spookiness: Neglected Cemetery Believed Haunted by Restless, Abandoned Spirits

MM Cem entranceEstablished in the early 1800’s, this cemetery was the original resting place for Betsy Ross and her husband until they were relocated at the Ross House in 1975.  In the mid and late 1800’s many cemeteries in the city were relocated to Mt. Moriah Cemetery.  The cemetery also is home to a National Cemetery, the Mount Moriah Naval Cemetery Soldier’s Lot.

Mount Moriah Cemetery is a historic cemetery in southwest Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, along Cobbs Creek. It was incorporated on March 27, 1855 and established by an act of the Pennsylvania Legislature. The cemetery, which originally occupied 54 acres (22 ha), was among a number of cemeteries established along the “rural ideal” popular at that time. An ornate Romanesque entrance and gatehouse were built of brownstone on Islington Lane, today known as Kingsessing Avenue.

MM gate frontMount Moriah Cemetery held a notable place among Philadelphia’s grand rural cemeteries like Laurel Hill Cemetery and the Woodlands Cemetery. It was easily accessible by streetcar. Over time, Mount Moriah grew to 380 acres (150 ha), spanning Cobbs Creek into the Borough of Yeadon in adjacent Delaware County, making it the largest cemetery in Pennsylvania.

MM panFor several years the cemetery has suffered from neglect and the ownership and management responsibilities of the cemetery have been in a state of confusion. Two military plots dating back to the Civil War are well cared for by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Horatio Jones, who was the last known member of the Mount Moriah Cemetery Association, died in 2004 and the cemetery closed its gates in 2011. An employee of the Association may have conducted business operations without proper authority from 2004-2011. Having no known owner, the cemetery may be in a unique legal situation in the United States. Several volunteer cleanup days have been organized by a private group,

MM photoshoot

Friends of Mt. Moriah Cemetery, and progress has been made to returning the cemetery to normal condition, but, as of January 2013, the legal situation is unresolved. Expected annual maintenance costs are about $500,000.