Jul 29, 2022 I Paul Seaburn

Mysterious Tracks Found on Atlantic Floor and Ancient Footprints Appear on Utah Salt Flats

Where is the last place you would expect to find a line of human footprints or a line of precise holes that look like they were made by humans? If you said “On the floor of the ocean or a sea,” you’re in the same league as researchers for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who found a mysterious trail of holes more than a mile deep in the Atlantic Ocean. You’re also in the same company as researchers in Utah who found strange human footprints called “ghost tracks” believed to date back to the last ice age on some salt flats in Utah – flat expanses covered with the salt of ancient lakes. What are these mysterious prints? Were humans once transmedium like UFOs?

“On Saturday's #Okeanos dive, we saw several sublinear sets of holes in the seafloor. The origin of the holes has scientists stumped. The holes look human made, but the little piles of sediment around them suggest they were excavated by...something.”

Image courtesy of NOAA Ocean Exploration, Voyage to the Ridge 2022

Something? That doesn’t sound like something you expect to hear from the scientists at the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, yet that is exactly what was posted on the organization’s social media page this week along with a plea for help from the land-living public on identifying an underwater line of holes. the holes were observed as part of the NOAA's Voyage to the Ridge 2022, a series of three ocean explorations using a remotely-operated underwater vehicle to record and map deepwater areas around the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Azores Plateau and Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone. The 10,000 miles long Mid-Atlantic Range spans the north-south length of the Atlantic Ocean, making it the longest mountain range in the world. The Azores Plateau encompasses the Azores archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean, and the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone is a system of two parallel fracture zones in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between the Azores and Iceland. This is an active volcano area, so it is understandable the NOAA wants as much information about what’s going on the ocean floor there as it can get.

“During Dive 04 of the second Voyage to the Ridge 2022 expedition, we observed several of these sublinear sets of holes in the sediment. These holes have been previously reported from the region, but their origin remains a mystery.”

These holes are 1.7 miles below the surface of the Atlantic and they’ve been observed before. In fact, they’re not the only mysterious lines of holes in the area. Back in 2004, the journal Frontiers in Marine Science reported a similar find along the northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge north of the Azores at a depth of 1.3 miles. The researchers then speculated that raised sediment around the holes indicated they could have been dug out by deep sea crustaceans, such as the blind lobster (Acanthacaris caeca) or some other animals.

However, there were no signs of undersea animals anywhere and they couldn’t positively identify their cause, so they dubbed the holes “lebensspuren,” which is German for ‘life traces’ and used to describe holes and burrows made by living things, and hoped that “future studies of the lebensspuren we report here will resolve the mystery of what created them.” That means they don’t buy comments that the holes were made by aliens or a mechanical rover or some other human means. What about escaping gases or shifting sediments from seismic movements? They’re sticking with something “lebens” (living).

“Human footprints believed to date from the end of the last ice age have been discovered on the salt flats of the Air Force's Utah Testing and Training Range (UTTR) by Cornell researcher Thomas Urban in forthcoming research.”

There is no question the marks found in the salt flats of the Air Force’s testing and training area located in Utah's West Desert about 80 miles (130 km) west of Salt Lake City are or human origin – but there is still plenty of mystery surrounding whose they are, how they got there and why they haven’t been seen before. The Utah Test and Training Range is the largest contiguous block of over-land supersonic-authorized restricted airspace in the contiguous United States, so you can’t juts go wandering in to look for these are any other footprints. Thomas Urban and Daron Duke, of Far Western Anthropological Research Group, were driving to an archaeological hearth site at UTTR when Urban spotted odd prints in the ground. As he explains in a Cornell press release, Upon closer examination, he identified them as bare human footprints similar to those he had seen at White Sands National Park, another military base on a dry seabed and home to the earliest known human footprints in the Americas. (Photos here.

"Based on excavations of several prints, we've found evidence of adults with children from about five to 12 years of age that were leaving bare footprints. People appear to have been walking in shallow water, the sand rapidly infilling their print behind them—much as you might experience on a beach—but under the sand was a layer of mud that kept the print intact after infilling."

The famous Bonneville Salt Flats

In an Air Force press release, Duke explains that “there have been no wetland conditions to produce the trackways” in this part of the Great Salt Lake desert since at least approximately 10,000 years ago, so the estimated age of these footprints, based on other geological signs in the area, is more than 12,000 years old. Fortunately, these 88 footprints are protected by Anya Kitterman, Hill Air Force Base’s Cultural Resource Manager, who is overseeing the work being done by Far Western Anthropological Research Group under the direction of Daron Duke. Kitterman makes sure they use non-invasive archaeological techniques like magnetometers and ground penetrating radar, and involves leaders of Native American tribes in the area whose representatives have visited the site. It is hoped they might help shed light on who the people were that made these ancient footprints – called “ghost tracks” not because they are haunted but due to the fact that they disappear in dry conditions and reappear when moisture is present. Fortunately, ground penetrating radar isn’t fooled by “ghost tracks.”

Mysterious tracks and footprints. They’re the stuff of horror novels and movies but they don’t scare archeologists.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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