In our world, mountains generally only move up (while forming) or down (while eroding or sinking). Otherwise they follow the tectonic plates they happen to be on. In island chains like the Hawaiian archipelago it may seem that they are moving but actually some plate is moving apart from another one, with the islands form at the boundaries.

Would it be possible to have an actual moving mountain, though? I'm thinking of mountains that move over the tectonic plate they are on. In any direction other than up and down, at any speed - it doesn't have to be something noticeable on a lifetime, or even over millennia.

The reason I'm asking is because I dreamed about a mountain that circled its world every couple hundred million years, leaving paleonthologists and geologists baffled about the fossils and formations on and in it.

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    $\begingroup$ How about a big dune? $\endgroup$ Aug 22, 2019 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ @WorldPeace if it is big enough to be more than a sand hill, and if it can keep its shape over millions of years I'm sold. $\endgroup$ Aug 22, 2019 at 16:11
  • $\begingroup$ Well there is a height limit but it’s not quite clear to me what the reason is nature.com/news/2009/090225/full/news.2009.117.html. I think the biggest dune on earth is like almost 500m high. $\endgroup$ Aug 22, 2019 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ Dunes on mars reach even a bit higher hou.usra.edu/meetings/dunes2015/pdf/8031.pdf $\endgroup$ Aug 22, 2019 at 16:20
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    $\begingroup$ @puppetsock nothing in known geology would do for half the questions in this site ;) $\endgroup$ Aug 22, 2019 at 17:26

4 Answers 4


If you consider a glacier to be a mountain of ice, then that could be an answer. Glaciers have a very slow lateral movement which is a result of melting unevenly at the base. This means that over a long period of time, the glacier will eventually be in a different location from where it was first measured to be.

If you want your mountain to be a pure magma formed one, then try this. Perhaps you could say that some event (super deep drilling, space debris collision, handwavium buildup, etc) caused an eruption in an arctic area of your world. In this way, a rock mountain formed atop a field of thick ice. This event (or the released magma) loosened the ice in the area, causing your mountain to now exist on a moving platform of ice. Highly unlikely, but it could make for fun worldbuilding.


Of course!

There used to be a very famous mountain called the Flanabjarg. Famous now only because it's in Sweden. But, you say, Sweden is full of mountains! But what makes Flanabjarg interesting is that, even now, it has a garrison of Norwegian soldiers on top, the so called Black Pillars, for it's a matter of history that Frederick V established a border garrison on Flanabjarg in in 1748. And not far from these fortifications is indeed a tall pillar of black stone.

Interestinger still, a map commissioned by King John in 1499 clearly shows that Flanabjarg is on the west coast of Norway while a massive sea weathered runestone on the mountain's eastern slopes, dedicated to a great voyage of Sverre Sigurdsson in 1187 is still plainly visible. Odd how a sea weathered stone should be inland, don't you think?

In an old saga bound up with the Snorra Edda, we find ...eyland svartsteinn í meðal islands ok norvegs sundfœrranda ok hét flana bjargr. An island mountain with a great black stone on top in the middle of the ocean!

In Landnámabók, the historical accounts of the settling of Iceland in the 9th and 10th centuries, we find references to a singular mountain island in the Southfjords, it's mighty black stone pillar rising up from the sea to greet the newly arrived settlers.

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    $\begingroup$ It is still a vertical movement. Fennoscandia in general, and on-coast Norway in particular, experience an enormous post-glacial rebound, up to 1 cm/year. In a 900 years since Sigurdsson that makes about 9 meters of uplift. Enough to make an island inland. $\endgroup$
    – user58697
    Aug 23, 2019 at 4:31
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    $\begingroup$ @user58697 --- You're naturally going to get uplift as the effects of the Ice dissipate. If you look at the timeline and where Flanabjarg has been spotted over the course of time, I think you'll note that this is not about vertical movement. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Aug 23, 2019 at 10:39

Imagine a "log" of extremely resistant material maybe 100km long and several kilometers thick, floating vertically just under the planetary surface so that it protrudes into planetary mantle and is pushed by currents there. It is thus moving differently than the crust tectonic plates over geological timescales. On its top there is the mountain.

I can't think of a way this could happen naturally, or if such a material exists, wolfram metal would wear down too. Perhaps some alien artifact or splinter of exotic matter.

  • $\begingroup$ Something like this was my first thought as well, though my initial variation was simply a "wave" of mantel material/pressure, without a solid component like your 'log'. $\endgroup$
    – Harthag
    Aug 26, 2019 at 18:54

After some research, I remembered that in Africa there are two dunes made of magnetized sand. Apparently you can even grab a handful of such sand and throw it away, and watch at is clamps back onto the dune.

The wind blows and erodes those dunes as it would with any other geographic feature. But the sand grains aggregate again, resulting in the whole structure moving at a speed of about seventeen meters per year.

More on the magnetic dunes can be found in this link. I imagine that given more mass of magnetized sand, such structures could become as large as mountains and still keep moving. It would be interesting to see what happens when they reach the ocean, though.


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