Part of the mystery surrounding the baffling appearance and disappearance of a monolith in Utah appears to have been explained.
Conspiracy theorists had speculated that the structure, which was discovered in the desert late last month, was removed by aliens – but a photographer has revealed he watched it being taken away by a group of men.
In an Instagram post, Ross Bernards said he had spotted four men removing the monolith on Friday evening before mysteriously saying: “Leave no trace.”
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A post shared by Ross Bernards (@rossbernards)
Mr Bernards explained he had driven to the location with three friends to take photographs of the monolith.
“I had just finished taking some photos of the monolith under the moonlight and was taking a break, thinking about settings I needed to change for my last battery of drone flight when we heard some voices coming up the canyon,” he said.
“4 guys rounded the corner and 2 of them walked forward. They gave a couple of pushes on the monolith and one of them said ‘You better have got your pictures’.
“He then gave it a big push, and it went over, leaning to one side. He yelled back to his other friends that they didn’t need the tools. The other guy with him at the monolith then said ‘this is why you don’t leave trash in the desert’.”
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The photographer described how the men pushed the structure until it landed on the ground with a “loud bang”.
“They quickly broke it apart and as they were carrying to the wheelbarrow that they had brought one of them looked back at us all and said ‘Leave no trace’,” he said.
Explaining why his group did not stop the men, Mr Bernards said they were “right” to remove the monolith because people keen to see the mysterious structure were starting to ruin the local landscape.
“We could literally see people trying to approach it from every direction to try and reach it, permanently altering the untouched landscape,” he said.
“Mother Nature is an artist, it’s best to leave the art in the wild to her.”
The monolith’s strange appearance had sparked speculation about how it had come to be there – especially after a similar structure was discovered in Romania two weeks later.
Some have guessed the monolith is a tribute to science-fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which a metal monolith is discovered in the desert by apes.
The Utah Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had indicated that it would not investigate its disappearance, saying: “The BLM did not remove the structure, which is considered private property.
“We do not investigate crimes involving private property, which are handled by the local sheriff’s office.”