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No. 77: Sep-Oct 1991

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Valleys Of Death And Elephant Graveyards

Legend has it that elephants near death separate from their companions and trek alone to ancestral graveyards, dying only when they reach these special places. The truth is that accumulations of elephant bones have indeed been discovered, but no one seems to have followed expiring elephants to these boneyards. We hope someone will tell us otherwise, but the tale seems apocrythal.

The piles of elephant bones could, in fact, be the work of mazukus. (Mazuku means "evil wind" in Swahili.) It seems that there are places on this earth where CO2 and other deadly gases emitted from volcanic vents accumulate. J. Lockwood and M. Tuttle investigated three mazukus known to natives in East Africa. In these low-lying areas, they came upon the remains of small mammals and birds that has been asphyxiated by concentrations of CO2 dense enough to snuff out burning kerosene-soaked rags. Unfortunately for the elephantgraveyard legend, they found no elephant bones. (Anonymous; "Elephant Graveyards," Discover, 12:10, May 1991.)

Comment. It would be interesting to know if other species of animals are found in the elephant graveyards. So-called "valleys of death" are found elsewhere in the world, including Yellowstone.

Reference. Other "valleys of death" are cataloged in ESC5 in Anomalies in Geo logy, described here.

From Science Frontiers #77, SEP-OCT 1991. 1991-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987