Ancient Rock Mysteries and Unbelievable Rock Formations
Let's explore the theories behind the Al Naslaa rock mystery and discover other seemingly inexplicable rock formations.Mysteries
The Arabian Desert is a barren wilderness that stretches from Yemen to Jordan and Iraq. It covers 900,000 square miles, making it the fifth largest desert in the world! Walking across these barren, red dunes, you might think you’d landed on the surface of Mars.
Even more alien-like thing in this desert is a particular rock: the Al Naslaa rock feature, a boulder that’s split in half by an unbelievably straight and smooth line. It looks as if it’s been cut down the middle by a powerful laser! Except the Al Naslaa is more than 488 million years old, millennia before lasers even existed!
So, how could such a strange thing occur? Was this an unbelievable feat of ancient engineering? Or maybe extra-terrestrials got lost on their way to Mars and left this behind! Let's explore the theories behind this ancient feature and discover other seemingly inexplicable rock formations.
Theory 1: Aliens, It’s Always Aliens
The Al Naslaa stands 20 feet tall and 30 feet wide, its tremendous bulk balancing on two small stone pedestals. Which is crazy to look at! For instance, how does this huge rock not just topple over?
Well, those pedestals are in fact the bottom of the rock, only they’ve been carved away by wind and sand erosion, while the rest of the boulder sits perched on top. But that doesn’t explain the uncannily straight line, that allows a perfect sliver of blue sky to be seen through the rock.
To make sense of this mystery, some observers have suggested that this is the result of some extra-terrestrial meddling. They believe that a U.F.O landed in the Tayma Oasis where the rock is located and zapped it apart with one of their big space lasers! Which is hard to believe for a few reasons.
Let’s put our tin hats on and just assume aliens definitely exist for a moment. Why would an extra-terrestrial lifeform travel millions of lightyears across the Universe just to cut a rock in half? Surely, they have way more important things to do, being smart enough to have conquered space travel!
But what if it was an accident? A misfire by a ray gun blast, perhaps? Maybe the aliens were enjoying a fun game of literal laser tag and one of them accidentally split the rock in half! Then they hopped straight back onto their spaceship and flew away before they could get caught!
A fun theory, but unfortunately, it's more sci-fi than fact. Other than the smooth cut in the rock, there isn’t actually any evidence that aliens visited Earth, at least that anyone not wearing a tin hat will tell you about. But then again, who knows what’s out there.
Theory 2: Ancient Engineering
Scattered upon the surface of the Al Naslaa rock are various petroglyphs. One looks like a drawing carved into the rock face depicting a man leading a horse-like creature. It’s thought to have been made by one of the Thamud, an ancient Arabian tribe that inhabited the region nearly 2,800 years ago!
For those ancient desert settlors to take the time and effort to carve artwork into the rock face, it must have been important to them. And if that’s the case, then maybe they were responsible for the rock’s perfect split!
But how could they achieve such a thing, given the sheer laser-like precision involved, given the first laser wasn’t invented until 1958. And that was only possible after the world’s biggest genius, Albert Einstein, came up with his theories on light energy at the beginning of the 20th Century. So, it’s impossible to think that the Thamud could have ever constructed their own lasers!
Nevertheless, something that has existed since way before even the time of the Thamud tribe that might be responsible is water. Strange as it sounds, it’s possible that the Thamud people were able to harness the power of water to split the rock!
How would that work? Surely, water would just make the rock wet, right? Well, a fundamental property of water is its density. Water flows, but it is incredibly difficult to compress. This property of water is what allows it to deliver rock-splitting force when engineered into a hydraulics system. A hydraulic powered compressor can crush solid iron hammers and tires like they’re cheap tin cans!
This is due to Pascal’s law, which states that when pressure is exerted on a fluid like water in an enclosed container, the pressure will be distributed evenly throughout the water. So, a hydraulics system works by having a container full of water with a smaller piston at one end, and a larger piston at the other.
In accordance with Pascal’s law, coupled with the fact that pressure is equal to force divided by the area upon which the force acts, if the larger piston has an area 10 times greater than the smaller piston, the force applied to the larger piston is also 10 times greater!
That’s because to keep the pressure equal, as the area is increased, the force must also be magnified!
This amplified force can then be harnessed by attaching a drill bit to the other end, just like a hydraulic splitter. The splitter operates by having a central blade pushed down by hydraulic pressure, this causes two steel wedges on either side to be forced outwards to crack and cut through the rock, creating stunningly straight lines!
So, it could be possible that the Thamud tribe were able to cut the rock using something similar to a hydraulic splitting tool, or maybe the Thamud tribe miraculously invented laser technology!
But it’s highly unlikely, as there’s no archeological proof. Even so, maybe our ancestors were secretly more advanced than the history books let on! What if they were aliens?
Theory 3: Ore or Nothing
While those two previous theories do sound fun, I wouldn’t mention them to any geologists if I were you! Because their theories on how the Al Naslaa split occurred are set in stone, literally!
Some geologists suggest that the split could have been formed due to a process called “freeze-thaw” weathering. This occurs when some of the desert’s sparse rainfall ends up trapped in a small crevice in the rock and freezes into ice overnight.
Ice in the desert might seem impossible but though the Arabian desert is a sweltering oven during the day, averaging temperatures of 100°F, at night the temperature plummets to just 25°F.
This is because sand is terrible at retaining heat, so without the sun beating down on it, all the heat dissipates from the desert at night. As a result, small deposits of water that have collected in rock crevices freeze and expand, forcing the cracks in the rock to widen and lengthen.
When the sun rises, the ice melts and slips deeper into the rock crack, and the water freezes and widens the crack again the next night. This process repeats itself over thousands of years until, eventually, the rock splits.
So, it’s possible this is what occurred to divide the Al Naslaa rock. However, freeze-thaw weathering typically results in more jagged lines than the straight divide of the Al Naslaa formation.
Therefore, many geologists argue the perfectly straight line is the result of a joint fracture. Joints are parallel cracks formed in a rock from one of two ways: internal pressure as the rock contracts during freezing winters, or external pressure from the rock being shaken or tilted during earthquakes.
In this case, it’s theorized that the Al Naslaa rock lay on a fault line, and that tectonic motion caused the ground beneath the rock to lower slightly on one side. The resulting strain on the rock ultimately caused it to split in two.
This is the most widely supported theory in the scientific world. And the theory with the most evidence, as you can see another joint here, parallel to the divide in the rock. Also, the two sides of the rock sit at slightly odd angles to each other, with the right side slightly lower than the left.
So, if you ask the geologists, the answer to the Al Naslaa’s unbelievably straight crack was right there the whole time!
The Mawlynnong Floating Rock
Mawlynnong is a small village in the East Khasi Hills in Northeast India. It’s a charming little village, it’s even been voted Asia’s cleanest village! But Mawlynnong isn’t just the home of miraculous cleanliness.
On the outskirts of the village, a geological wonder awaits a boulder, hovering in mid-air, a giant rock that defies the forces of gravity! However, this strange phenomenon has been achieved through the unmatched power of photoshop.
Viral images of the rock like this are a total hoax! In reality, this huge boulder balances atop a smaller boulder, that has been airbrushed out of shot.
Nevertheless, there is still a strange mystery behind this rock. Enclosed in a wire fence, the large boulder has been balanced here for thousands of years! Countless cyclones and torrential typhoons have swept through the area, but none have managed to topple it.
And no one knows why this rock monument was built in the first place! Local historians suggest it was used as an ancient shrine of the Khasi Tribes before the adoption of Christianity. However, the elders of the village say the rock was the stage for human sacrifices made 1000 years ago to appease the gods!
To this day, the origin of the balancing Mawlynnong rock monument remains unsolved. All we do know now is that the world’s miracles are best performed by photoshop!
Death Valley Haunting
Death Valley is a sunken desert valley in Eastern California, and is one of the hottest places on Earth! With average temperatures of 120°F, it holds the world record for the highest air temperature ever documented at a scorching 134°F back in 1913!
And Death Valley lives up to the name, with 41 fatalities recorded between 2010 and 2020 alone. Hiking through this desert, you’d better stay hydrated and not succumb to heatstroke. But, for all the obvious dangers, the last thing you’d expect is to look over your shoulder and find yourself being chased by rocks!
If you spot rocks followed by a trail, rest assured that it's not the intense heat causing hallucinations; the rocks are in fact moving by themselves! Could it be the work of the ghosts of those who have perished in Death Valley?
Luckily, it's nothing quite as morbid as that. It’s actually down to good old rock science.
Known as the sailing stones, these are rocks that have left trails behind them as long as 1,500 feet, just over the length of four football fields! Some of the stones even seem like they’re racing each other they’re on such similar tracks!
Though the cause of this strange geological phenomenon has alluded scientists for years. In 2014, they were finally able to capture the stones in action with the use of time-lapse photography.
They discovered rainfall formed a small pond that froze over night when desert temperatures dropped. In the early morning, the ice sheet thawed and broke up, creating a slippery path that the sailing stone slid along, pushed by a light wind.
Typically, the sailing stones slide along straight lines, but sometimes the rocks can veer off into zigzag tracks. Scientists found rocks with rough-bottomed surfaces tended to leave straight tracks, while smooth-bottomed rocks meandered across the desert.
Salt Bae City
If you ever visit the Denizli Province in southwestern Turkey, then chances are the locals will recommend you check out a place called Pamukkale, which translates to “cotton castle”. But this isn’t a castle made out of cotton swabs or cotton candy! It’s a series of stunning white, plateaued steps that look like they’ve been carved out of glass. Can you guess what they’re made of?
If you thought ice, then think again, because these steps are part of a naturally occurring hot spring! There are 17 hot springs in this area, that range from 95°F, the temperature of a nice hot bath, to a boiling 212°F! And yet, it’s the presence of the hot springs that has resulted in Pamukkale’s world famous white terraces!
The hot springs’ water is superheated underground by magma beneath the Earth’s crust. The water then rises up through the bedrock and becomes supersaturated with calcium carbonate.
When the water breaks the surface, the carbon dioxide gas de-gasses from it, leaving behind a soft gel of calcium carbonate. This calcium carbonate then hardens, crystallizing into the shimmering, snow-white travertine steps Pamukkale is famous for!
By modern geology standards, this seems pretty obvious. But for the longest time, it was believed that the pools were made of solidified cotton, the area’s principal export, that giants left out to dry!
The Moeraki Boulders
New Zealand is well-known as the filming location of the Lord of the Rings, but down on Koekohe beach you’ll find something that looks like it’s straight out of Game of Thrones! There’s a collection of giant, spherical boulders nestled in the sand, that look strangely similar to dragon eggs!
But, as far as we know, no giant flying lizards have hatched out of one, yet! Known as the Moeraki Boulders, there are over 50 of them scattered across the beach, ranging from 1.5 feet to 7 feet in diameter.
And their numbers are only growing, as more egg-like boulders continue to emerge from the black mudstone cliff the beach backs onto as the ocean erodes it away.
Photographs taken in the 19th century show that originally there were even more boulders! However, over the years they’ve been dug up and stolen by people looking for souvenirs! The boulders are now legally protected, preventing further theft.
But where did they come from? Are they growing inside the cliff? Well, it’s actually the opposite! They originally formed in the ocean over 60 million years ago, and took 4 million years to grow to the giant size they are now!
The boulders originally formed when layers of sediment consisting of shell fragments and plant material built up on the seabed. Calcite mineral then collected around this clump of organic mass, snowballing over millions of years into a spherical stone boulder!
Some of the outer layers of the boulders are cracked, revealing bold yellow veins of calcite crystal, though it’s unknown what caused these cracks in the first place! Some geologists suspect the rocks came under stress from an earthquake, while others argue it was the result of contraction of the outer rock layers when it dried out too quickly.
In October 1941, professional parachutist George Hopkins decided to show off his skills to the world, by landing on an incredibly small target. He selected Devil’s Tower, a rock monument that rises a staggering 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River, Wyoming, that’s taller than the roof height of the empire state building!
Despite the tower’s colossal size, covering 1,347 acres, the actual summit of the tower narrows to a flat top of only 1.5 acres, roughly the same size as a football field. But George was up for the challenge, so he jumped out of a plane and put his skills to the test. And he successfully landed!
But the 1,000-foot climbing rope thrown out of the plane, to aid his descent, fell off the side of the tower leaving George stuck on the rock top! It’s so tall, George spent 7 days stranded on Devil’s Tower before he was rescued, giving him plenty of time to wonder how this strange monument came to be.
Devil’s Tower is a result of a volcanic intrusion, where magma bubbled up through layers of sedimentary rock but didn’t breach the surface. It cooled underground, forming these unique hexagonal columns of igneous rock.
The columnar jointing is the result of the rock cracking as it contracts into solid rock from molten magma. Thousands of years of erosion have worn away the above sedimentary rock, revealing Devil’s Tower.
Though before modern geological research, indigenous tribes believed the Tower’s columns were the result of a King Kong-sized bear’s claws that carved straight through the mountain side. Luckily for George, this giant bear is a myth, otherwise his stunt would have been un-bearable!
Nearly all of the world’s minerals can be found in a crystalline form, producing an array of wonderful colors! Generally, they form underground where the right temperatures and pressures are more easily met. However, they also require room to grow, and it’s pretty cramped underground, so only small crystals are usually able to form.
But what if there was a big empty cave with perfect conditions, and the crystals just kept growing and growing and growing! Well, this exact situation occurred in the fittingly named “Cave of Crystals”, underneath the Sierra de Naica Mountain in Chihuahua, Mexico.
This cave chamber is located 984 feet underground and is the stuff of every geologist’s dreams! It’s overrun with hulk-sized interlocking crystals, measuring between 20 to 36 feet long! At their biggest, they’re the same length as a telephone pole! And with diameters of over 3 feet, these crystals are some of the biggest ever discovered!
These crystals started to form over 26 million years ago and took 500,000 to 900,000 years to grow into the size they are now. This process began when groundwater entered the cave through an opening in a magma chamber, with the intrusive water saturated with the mineral anhydrite.
The magma beneath the crystal cave kept the temperature steaming hot, but when the temperature dipped slightly below 136°F, the anhydrite started to break down into calcium and sulfate.
These minerals then began recrystallizing into a form of gypsum known as selenite. When the temperature stabilized, and with a steady supply of mineral-rich water, the crystals kept growing into the huge white crystalline spears we see today!
Though this environment may be perfect for selenite crystals, it’s deadly to humans! Without proper protection, researchers can only last ten minutes in there!
For a start, the cave’s roasting temperature of 136°F means researchers are constantly at risk of overheating! Not only that, but the humidity in the cave ranges between 90-99%. Considering our bodies run at a cooler 98.6°F , this means the water in the humid air condenses inside our lungs. So, in this cave, you could literally drown on dry land!
Therefore, geologists who enter the crystal cave have to wear protective cooling suits, but even then, they can only remain up to 1 hour inside the cave at any given time!
The Eye of the Sahara
The Sahara Desert is one of the harshest places on earth, with temperatures exceeding 104°F during the hottest months of the year. Other than the camels, most people want to spend as little time there as possible!
And with no one eager to explore this desert, it’s no surprise that one of the world’s most impressive geological wonders went undiscovered for centuries! It wasn’t until 1965, when astronauts were orbiting the earth, that they saw something huge lurking in this barren desert!
It was the Richat Structure, also known as The Eye of the Sahara thanks to the huge concentric circles that make it look, eerily, like a giant’s eye staring out of the desert.
While the central ring dike stretches a mere 66 feet across, the entire eye itself stretches more than 25 miles in diameter! It’s so large, that at ground level it doesn’t look like much, and the full eye effect can only really be seen when it’s viewed from up high! No wonder it took so long to discover!
While it was initially theorized that this could be an impact crater from a massive meteor, its striking circular structure has led many conspiracy nuts to believe that this is actually the ancient site of the famous sunken city of Atlantis!
It sounds wild, but it does resemble an account of Atlantis described by the great philosopher Plato some 2500 years ago, specifically the rings around each level of the city. And its proximity to the ocean does mean that it might have been submerged at some point in history.
But, sorry to poop on Plato’s parade, the elliptical structure didn’t always look like this. Rather, over 600 million years ago it was a gigantic dome rising out of the ground! The surrounding landscape was a lush area, abundant with rivers and lakes, a stark contrast to the dry desert it is today.
The dome was formed when layers of sandstone were pushed up by volcanic activity and layers of igneous rock formed on its surface from lava deposits. Then, just over 100 million years ago, this volcanic dome erupted violently!
As a result, the dome collapsed in on itself, while water erosion from the flowing rivers across the landscape began to eat away at the rock. But the layers of sandstone and volcanic rock eroded at different rates, resulting in this ring like effect. So, no sunken cities here! Just sunken conspiracy theorist dreams!
Down south in Arizona, along the Coyote Buttes ravine, there’s a series of undulating rocks where nature has apparently made the perfect skatepark! Simply known as “The Wave”, it’s a geological landmark consisting of sculpted red rock that formed back in the Jurassic era, over 190 million years ago!
The desert dunes here were compacted, and gradually solidified into striped sandstone. The biggest trough is 62 feet wide, 118 feet long and could contain 7 half-pipes stacked side by side within it!
But unfortunately, this isn’t a place where you can kick some flips, or whatever the cool kids call it, because the structure is extremely delicate. The soft nature of this sandstone rock is also the cause of its one-of-a-kind sloping structure, because the layers of sandstone have been carved away by slow wind and rain erosion.
Ridges have formed in the sides of the sandstone, as different bands of the rock have eroded at different rates.
To preserve this structure, visitors are limited, with a lottery only dispensing permits to 16 people per day to hike up to this striking landmark. If only they could build some wooden ramps across it, so some of us could enjoy riding these waves for real!