SOMEWHERE IN THE DESERT, Utah (PNN) - November 24, 2020 - Government workers had a close encounter of the strange kind out in the Utah desert.
A crew with the state wildlife resources department was aboard a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter when they spotted a mysterious monolith sticking out of the dirt last week.
About 10 to 12 feet tall, the shiny metal object was firmly planted in the ground, suggesting it wasn't just dropped from above.
Officials suggest it could be have been constructed by an artist or a huge fan of 2001: A Space Odyssey - the structure resembles the machines found in Arthur C. Clarke’s story.
The unlabeled object is located inside a red rock cove, but fearful that amateurs could endanger themselves trying to get a closer look, the workers have withheld details about its exact location.
The team was in the remote area to count bighorn sheep when they spotted the unidentified object.
“One of the biologists is the one who spotted it and we just happened to fly directly over the top of it,” said pilot Bret Hutchings. “He was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, turn around, turn around,’ and I was like, ‘what?’ And he’s like, ‘There’s this thing back there - we’ve got to go look at it.’”
After the helicopter circled back and landed, the crew went into the cove to investigate.
“We were thinking, is this something NASA stuck up there or something? Are they bouncing satellites off it?” Hutchings said. “We were kind of joking around that if one of us suddenly disappears, then the rest of us make a run for it.”
All jokes aside, Hutchings believes the structure is probably some kind of artwork.
“I’m assuming it’s some new wave artist or something or, you know, somebody that was a big 2001: A Space Odyssey fan,” he said.
Utah has a history of “land art,” unusual installations that cropped up far from population centers in the 1960s and 1970s.
The most famous is Spiral Jetty, a 1,500-foot-long coil by artist Robert Smithson in 1970 that’s composed entirely of mud, salt crystals and basalt.
Located on the northeastern edge of the Great Salt Lake near Rozel Point, the jetty appears and disappears depending on water levels.
So far, however, no one has stepped forward to claim responsibility for the monolith.
“That’s been about the strangest thing that I’ve come across out there in all my years of flying,” Hutchings said.
The workers took video and photos of the object, but left in place.
So far, it hasn’t disturbed the bighorn sheep that live in the southern half of Utah.
Their population was once down to under a thousand in the 1970s, but conservation efforts have seen them make a big comeback in recent decades.