We were not worthy.
The mysterious metal monolith found in Utah earlier this month has vanished, after sparking alien conspiracy theories and attracting hordes of messy internet pilgrims to its remote location in the desert.
The monolith disappeared sometime on Friday night during the U.S. Thanksgiving weekend, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The paper sent a reporter to visit the site on Saturday, but the object was gone when he arrived.
The only sign of its presence was a triangular cut left in the rock and a triangular metal slab that likely served as the object’s base.
“It’s gone,” hiker Spencer Owen said in a video posted on his Instagram over the weekend, after the monolith had been removed.
The three-sided, 3.4-metre-tall object became a viral sensation in mid-November when state biologists announced they’d spotted it from a helicopter while counting bighorn sheep in southern Utah. Officials shared photos and videos of the puzzling object, but they withheld its location amid concerns that people might go looking for it.
Internet users figured out the location within a week, and soon the site was overrun with visitors eager to examine the object — and to capture a piece of its viral fame.
Visitors revealed that the object likely wasn’t built by aliens, unless those aliens were getting their supplies from a hardware store. The object was a hollow structure made from three sheets of metal, which had been riveted together and embedded in a slot carved into the rock.
Archived satellite footage shows it had been in place since at least 2016, though its exact purpose remains unknown. The prevailing theory is that it was an art project, although no one has come forward to claim it as their work.
The Utah Bureau of Land Management (BLM) confirmed on Sunday that the object had been removed, but the organization did not know who took it away or why.
The BLM had urged people to stay away from the object, citing concerns that visitors would make a mess of the site or get lost on the way.
The government organization seemed almost relieved by the development, after monolith-hunters swarmed the area and made a mess of the natural environment around it. The BLM says the site did not have the parking spaces or restrooms necessary to accommodate the sudden influx of people.
“Visitors who flocked to the site parked on vegetation and left behind human waste as evidence of their visit,” the BLM said in a statement.
The BLM’s Monticello field office says the monolith was a nice distraction from the 2020 news cycle, but it has also been a headache for officials charged with caring for public lands in Utah.
“It was installed without authorization on public lands and the site is in a remote area without service for the large number of people who now want to see it,” Amber Denton Johnson, field manager for Monticello, said in a BLM statement. “Whenever you visit public lands please follow Leave No Trace principles and federal and local laws and guidance.”
Several hikers showed up at the site over the weekend to find nothing but the hole where the monolith once stood.
Hikers Riccardo Marino and Sierra Van Meter say they were among the first to discover that the object had disappeared. They arrived at the site around 11 p.m. and found nothing but a note in the sand reading: “Bye b—-.”
Someone appeared to have urinated on the site, the couple told local station KUTV.
Marino says they saw a suspicious truck on their way to see the monolith.
“We had passed a truck, a long bed truck, early 2000s light-coloured truck with a large object on the back,” he told the station. “I joked out loud, like, ‘Oh, look, there’s the Utah monolith right there,'” he recalled.
It’s unclear whether the object was removed by its maker or taken away by someone else.
The monolith’s designer and its true purpose have been a mystery since it was first discovered on Nov. 18.
The mystery has only deepened with this latest development, as two new questions remain unanswered: Where is the monolith now, and who — or what — took it?
—With files from The Associated Press