At the base of a barren slot canyon in Utah’s Red Rock Country, a group that was counting bighorn sheep by helicopter noticed one thing odd and landed to take a more in-depth look.
It was not a sheep.
It was a three-sided steel monolith, about 10 to 12 toes tall, planted firmly in the floor with no clear signal of the place it got here from or why it was there. The Utah Department of Public Safety, revealing its existence to the wider world on Monday, mentioned the group discovered the “unusual object” final week in southeastern Utah, throughout a survey with the state wildlife company.
“While on this mission, they spotted an unusual object and landed nearby to investigate further,” the division mentioned in a statement. “The crew said there was no obvious indication of who might have put the monolith there.”
The object was discovered in a distant space that Aaron Bott, a spokesman for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, described as rugged and really rocky, with many canyons and potential hazards. “It’s a tough place to get to on vehicle and on foot,” he mentioned.
“We fly pretty low for these surveys so we can identify the gender of the sheep, and while we were doing this we found this strange metallic monolith out in the middle of the desert,” he mentioned. He described the object as an “anomaly,” however added that it was “not too uncommon to find weird things that people have been doing out in the desert.”
In photographs and movies taken by a group member and released by the department, the survey crew will be seen descending into the alcove towards the object. “OK, the intrepid explorers go down to investigate the alien life form,” a crew member jokes in one in every of the movies. “Who does this kind of stuff?”
“It’s pointed right at the only crack,” one other crew member says, gesturing at a slender slot canyon in the purple rock formation. “Yeah,” the first man replies. “That is just wild.”
The helicopter pilot, Bret Hutchings, advised the native information station KSL TV that as the crew approached, “we were kind of joking around that if one of us suddenly disappears, then I guess the rest of us make a run for it.”
But Mr. Hutchings mentioned it was most likely an artwork set up. “I’m assuming it is, you know, some new wave artist or something, or somebody that was just a big ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ fan,” he mentioned, referring to the Stanley Kubrick film in which a matte black slab is found by curious, more and more agitated primates.
“I have to admit, that’s been about the strangest thing that I’ve come across out there in all the years of flying,” he added.
As Utah officers shared photographs of the discovery, many different observers observed the similarity, particularly in one picture that reveals a crew member who had clambered onto one other’s shoulders to have a look at the monolith’s prime.
On Facebook, the Utah Highway Patrol shared photographs of sheep and the object, asking the public for its ideas. “During the count they came across this (sheet of metal?), buried in the middle of nowhere … what do you think it is?” the caption said. It added emojis of an alien and an individual shrugging.
Respondents had recommendations: a “resonance deflector,” “an eyesore,” “some good metal.” Some theorized, vaguely, that it was a satellite tv for pc beacon. Others joked that it was a Wi-Fi router. Some mentioned it was a leftover film prop — Red Rock Country has served as the backdrop for “Indiana Jones,” “Star Trek” and “Mission Impossible” motion pictures. (Two Utah movie associations didn’t reply to questions on that chance.)
But the authorities have been assured that “it’s somebody’s art installation, or an attempt at that,” mentioned Lt. Nick Street, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety. “Maybe they had a different thing in mind.”
He mentioned the monolith gave the impression to be product of stainless-steel, put collectively “with human-made rivets” and embedded into the rock, although how deep was a thriller.
“Somebody took the time to use some type of concrete-cutting tool or something to really dig down, almost in the exact shape of the object, and embed it really well,” he mentioned. “It’s odd. There are roads close by, but to haul the materials to cut into the rock, and haul the metal, which is taller than 12 feet in sections — to do all that in that remote spot is definitely interesting.”
Lieutenant Street added that officers had no thought how lengthy the monolith has been there, saying, “For all we know it’s been installed since the ’40s and ’50s.”
The authorities declined to reveal the actual location of the monolith, saying that makes an attempt to go to it might be harmful. “If individuals were to attempt to visit the area, there is a significant possibility they may become stranded and require rescue,” the Department of Public Safety mentioned.
But the division indicated that the monolith was on federally managed land — Utah has millions of acres of it — saying, “It is illegal to install structures or art without authorization on federally managed public lands, no matter what planet you’re from.”
Lieutenant Street mentioned the Bureau of Land Management would decide whether or not to research additional or to take away the monolith, as an illustration whether it is discovered to have an effect on wildlife. The bureau didn’t instantly reply to requests for remark.
As for the group’s unique mission? It was a hit, mentioned Mr. Bott, the wildlife official. “The sheep are doing well,” he mentioned. “It’s a robust population.”