On November 18, a 10-foot-tall, metal monolith was spotted from a helicopter in a canyon in San Juan County, Utah. It attracted international curiosity as people wondered who installed it and why.
The monolith bears a resemblance to the monolith featured in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, which influenced speculation that it had been installed by aliens. Google Earth images have shown that the monolith has been in the canyon since at least 2016. No one has come forward to take credit for it.
The head of Sculpture Intermedia at the University of Utah’s Department of Art and Art History, Wendy Wischer, told The Salt Lake Tribune that she believes that whoever built the monolith worked with others who understood the remote location.
However, just one week after the monolith’s discovery, it disappeared. Ross Bernards, an adventure photographer, recounted to The New York Times that on November 27, as he was visiting the monolith, “four men appeared as if out of nowhere” and dismantled the structure. Mr. Bernards says he heard them saying “This is why you don’t leave trash in the desert” and “Leave no trace.”
Andy Lewis, a professional sportsman from Moab, Utah, took credit for dismantling the structure, along with Sylvan Christensen and two others. Mr. Lewis, who specializes in high-altitude performances and appeared in Madonna’s 2012 Super Bowl halftime show, said he and his group took down the monolith to protect the area from both the large metal structure and the crowds that arrived to see it. In a statement to The New York Times, they said that “the land wasn’t physically prepared for the population shift” and wrote that the public should be educated about land use and management.
To support the men’s claims, The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a news statement saying that the land upon which the monolith is situated is not strong enough to support the crowds. In the release, Amber Denton Johnson, the BLM’s Monticello Field Manager, said that, while she and the BLM recognize the high interest that the monolith has created internationally, “it was installed without authorization on public lands and the site is in a remote area without services for the large number of people who now want to see it.” Ms. Johnson asked the public to follow the Leave No Trace policy and federal and local laws when visiting.
Although the monolith has been taken down, the mystery remains in people’s minds. Much of the story behind the monolith is, as yet, unknown. It is unclear who installed it or why they did so. Perhaps as a clue to the monolith's origins, two similar structures have been reported in Pine Mountain in Central California and on a Romanian plateau. Each monolith stood between 10 and 12 feet tall and was triangular. These two structures have also disappeared. American and Romanian authorities have not yet discovered a strong link between them.