A mysterious grid of dots spanning several miles of Western China’s sand dunes like a giant chessboard may be the result of geological surveys for nickel mines, according to new analysis of satellite images of the area.
“In the satellite maps, we can see a man-made texture on the soil, a huge band which seems created by relatively small holes or mounds,” wrote the study author, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, a physicist at Italy’s Polytechnic University of Turin, on Oct. 25 on the website arXiv.org, ahead of publication to a scientific journal.
The strange pattern was clearly man-made. In older imagery from Bing and Nokia Maps taken prior to 2004, the strange pattern wasn’t visible, indicating the shapes appeared more recently.
Sparavigna then found an article in the Chinese press describing the discovery of large amounts of nickel buried under the dunes. She concluded the new shapes must be evidence of geological surveying done prior to mining the nickel reserves. Geologists often drill boreholes to determine the composition of mineral deposits below the surface.
This is excellent – a logical explanation. Makes sense. Drill holes do go in patterns. I still have questions though. Why sample in a grid like this? I’m unclear on that. Second, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna’s whole thing seems to be to search on Google Earth for odd things. I’m not convinced yet this is the right explanation for this anomaly.
She connected the grid pattern with a media article on nickel deposits. That seems tenuous. So, for now, I’ll hold this explanation provisionally. It COULD be the right one.