Mysterious Utah monolith’s location no longer a secret

The location of the mysterious monolith discovered last week among the red rocks of eastern Utah was destined not to remain a secret for long.

Monday’s revelation set off a frenzy of internet sleuthing, and by Wednesday intrepid hikers were posting selfies with the gleaming 10-foot-tall sculpture.

Utah wildlife officials spotted the object during an aerial count of bighorn sheep on Nov. 18 — and it was the record of their helicopter’s flight path that revealed the coordinates posted by Reddit user Tim Slane.

Slane told BBC reporters that he found a point in the flight record that indicated the helicopter might have landed, and then he examined satellite images of that area, about 20 miles southwest of Moab. One image revealed a shadow apparently cast by a tall, slender object.

Video: This mystery object was found in the Utah desert

Among the Reddit readers intrigued by Slane’s posting of the coordinates was David Surber, a 33-year-old Utah man who drove six hours through the night and then hiked to the site, on Bureau of Land Management property about 3 miles east of Canyonlands National Park. He may have been the first hiker there, but he wasn’t alone for long.

A spokesperson from the Utah Department of Public Safety told the BBC that the agency wants to warn hikers that the trek could be dangerous, but it is public land and open to anyone who wants to attempt the trip.

Though BLM restrictions prohibit such unauthorized art installations, no decision has been made to remove the monolith, the spokesperson said.

Speculation about the artist has focused on John McCracken, a Berkeley-born sculptor who died in 2011. If it is indeed his work, he never mentioned it to family, friends or the gallerist who represents his work, the New York Times said.

Slane told the BBC that the satellite images he studied suggest it was installed in 2016, well after McCracken’s death.

The David Zwirner Gallery initially identified the monolith as McCracken’s work, but then retracted that statement.

McCracken’s son, San Francisco photographer Patrick McCracken, told the Times that after the discovery he remembered a 2002 conversation in which his father “said something to the effect of that he would like to leave his artwork in remote places to be discovered later.”

The monolith is in Lockhart Basin, within the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument as proclaimed by President Obama in 2016. President Trump’s controversial order greatly reducing the monument’s size is being contested in court.

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