The Utah Department of Public Safety would really rather you not set out for the newly discovered monolith in San Juan County. But "the genie is out of the bottle" and "it's a free country," as Corporal Andrew Battenfield tells the BBC. The outlet reports dozens, "perhaps even hundreds of people," have visited the monolith since officials announced its discovery on Monday. Officials didn't give the exact location of the structure, spotted by a helicopter pilot on Nov. 18, fearing visitors would put themselves in danger. But online sleuths figured it out. Per the BBC, Reddit user Tim Slane tracked the path of the helicopter until it went off radar, indicating a possible landing. He then checked satellite imagery for geographical features that matched what he'd seen in photos. A long, narrow shadow emerged in imagery from October 2016, but not from August 2015.
Soon after Slane posted the coordinates online, photos began appearing of people visiting the structure—three sheets of what looks like stainless steel, riveted together and embedded in bedrock—which sits on public land. David Surber, a former US Army infantry officer, claims he was first. The Utah resident, 33, says he drove for six hours before arriving before dawn on Wednesday. "I was drawn to the fact that this object had been there for five years, hidden in nature," he tells the BBC. "It was a good escape from all the negativity we've experienced in 2020." The monolith is thought to be an art piece, possibly inspired by the late John McCracken. Online sleuths have pointed to Petecia Le Fawnhawk, an artist known for secret desert sculptures. But she tells Artnet News that she "cannot claim this one." Officials have yet to say whether the monolith will remain in place. (Read more strange stuff stories.)