Wannabe sleuths are struggling to explain the origins of a giant metal monolith spotted in a remote region of the Utah desert by a passing helicopter.
Pilot Brett Hutchings and wildlife officers spied the mysterious three-sided slab last week while conducting an annual count of bighorn sheep for the state. The structure - which has drawn comparisons to the monolith featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey - is between 10ft (3 metres) and 12ft (3.6 metres) tall and was found “planted in the ground, tucked in a red rock cove”, Sky News reports.
“One of the biologists is the one who spotted it and we just happened to fly directly over the top of it,” Hutchings told local news station KSL TV. “We were kind of joking around that if one of us suddenly disappears then the rest of us make a run for it.”
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The unexplained object “has captured the attention of millions, as people speculate over how such a structure came to be in a remote part of southern Utah”, says The Guardian.
Some eagle-eyed observers have compared the slab to works by minimalist sculpture John McCracken, who died in 2011. A spokesperson for his gallerist, David Zwirner, told the newspaper that they suspected the mysterious structure is “a work by a fellow artist paying homage to McCracken”.
However, Zwirner subsequently disputed that verdict. “The gallery is divided on this,” told The New York Times. “I believe this is definitely by John.”
Others have opted for more fantastical explanations, with some social media users suggesting the slab may be a “space portal”, Sky News reports.
Another would-be detective concluded that it was “probably left behind from a movie shoot”.
In a statement, Utah’s Department of Public Safety said it would not disclose the exact location of the slab, to avoid injury to people seeking to view it in person.
But “that did not stop Reddit users from identifying its likely whereabouts”, nor from zooming in on photos of the structure in search of further clues, says The Guardian.
Some “noted there were lines by its base which suggested a rock saw had been used to put it in the ground and that it appeared to be held together with screws, dispelling the theory it could be one large hunk of metal”, the paper adds.
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