Monolith planking. Helicopters full of YouTubers. Confused government officials.
One of the first intrepid visitors to visit the metallic monolith that was discovered in the Utah desert described the whirlwind few days to Countere magazine.
Mark Santamaria was camping with a friend in Moab, Utah when they heard that Reddit users placed the coordinates of the puzzling structure making international news just a few hours away.
The duo set out Tuesday morning to get a firsthand look at the monolith, and soon found out why wildlife officials who discovered it while counting sheep from a helicopter did not reveal its location.
“The monolith is definitely not the most accessible,” Santamaria told the magazine. “It’s in BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. You have to go off a highway onto a dirt road with lots of rocks, very treacherous. We have trucks with 4×4 but it was my first time doing serious off-roading and I didn’t know if my truck was going to make it…but the call of the monolith had us.”
Despite reports of overnight visitors, the campers hiked to the coordinates Tuesday morning and discovered the monolith surrounded by rocks, with no evidence of other guests.
The peaceful otherworldly experience did not last long, and soon turned into a “circus.” After about an hour Santamaria walked back to his vehicle to get water and saw government vehicles approaching and a helicopter descending on the site.
“Out hops 4-5 guys in their thirties, all with their phones out, recording themselves and talking into their phones.”
As the self-identified YouTubers shot footage and interviewed the campers, Bureau of Land Management employees including a ranger, a land manager, an archeologist and a soil scientist probed the bizarre structure.
“They were prodding at it, trying to understand its build and architecture. They were saying ‘We don’t know what to do with this thing, we’ve never had something like this happen before. We have to make a decision whether to keep or remove it,” Santamaria explained.
“There were lots of things to take into consideration. This is a treacherous stretch of land to drive or hike on, and leaving the monolith might set up an open invitation for other people to erect art on public lands. At the same time, it’s very fascinating, maybe it could get more people hiking. They said they would think about it.”
From there, the afternoon turned into a selfie free-for-all. The helicopter visitors had brought a ladder and took turns taking pictures sitting and planking on the 11-foot tall hollow metal structure.
Santamaria and his friend left to cook dinner and returned at night with headlamps and a lantern for a solitary visit that he described as “creepy and ominous.”
A short time later, the monolith mysteriously vanished — but the intrigue remains.
“We have received credible reports that the illegally installed structure, referred to as the ‘monolith’ has been removed from Bureau of Land Management public lands by an unknown party,” on Nov. 27, BLM spokesperson Kimberly Finch said in a statement. The agency did not remove the structure, she said.