Photographer says he saw men remove mysterious metal object from Southern Utah desert

A group of unidentified men are seen stooped over metal panels, shortly after they allegedly toppled the "Utah monolith" marker, San Juan County, Utah, Nov. 27, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Ross Bernards Photography, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The mysterious metal monolith in the southeast Utah desert was quickly removed by four men after dark Friday night, according to a professional photographer who reportedly witnessed the dismantling first-hand.

Updated Dec. 2, 10 a.m. to include information regarding two men that have claimed responsibility for the removal, according to a KSL report.

Ross Bernards said he and three friends made the six-hour drive to the site Friday, arriving about 7 p.m. 

Bernards, who spent the next hour and a half taking photographs of the monolith in the moonlight, said he and his friends were the only ones at the location until 8:40 p.m. At that time, four other men approached the site with a wheelbarrow, Bernards wrote in a social media post on Monday, which has since been shared widely on both Instagram and Facebook.

If you’re interested in what exactly happened to the monolith keep reading because I was literally there. On Friday, 3…

Posted by Ross Bernards Photography on Monday, November 30, 2020

“You better have got your pictures,” one of the men reportedly said as they walked up to the stainless-steel marker and began to push on it. 

 Another man in the group reportedly commented, “This is why you don’t leave trash in the desert.”

“All four of them came up and pushed it almost to the ground on one side before they decided to push it back the other way, when it then popped out and landed on the ground with a loud bang,” Bernards wrote.

Bernards said the men then loaded the steel panels onto their wheelbarrow and carted them off, with one of them looking back and saying, “leave no trace” as they left the site.

The entire removal operation took just eight minutes, Bernards said.

“If you’re asking why we didn’t stop them, well, they were right to take it out,” Bernards added.

Ross Bernards and friends pose for a self-portrait after the monolith’s removal, allegedly by another group of men, San Juan County, Utah, Nov. 27, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Ross Bernards Photography, St. George News

After spending the night at the site, Bernards said he and his friends saw at least 70 vehicles making their way to the location the next day.

“Cars parking everywhere in the delicate desert landscape, nobody following a path or each other,” he wrote. “We could literally see people trying to approach if from every direction to try and reach it, permanently altering the untouched landscape.”

“Mother Nature is an artist,” his post concluded. “It’s best to leave the art in the wild to her.”

One blurry image shared by Bernards appears to show the actual removal taking place, with multiple men bending over what appears to be two attached sheets of metal on the ground, with the panel on the third side appearing to be missing.

The remaining photos Bernards shared in his post were artistically posed, long-exposure shots taken in the moonlight, plus a few others showing the numerous vehicles approaching the site the next morning.

The identity of the men responsible for the monolith’s removal was initially a mystery, as was the identity of the person or persons who placed the marker at the site in the first place. However, later Tuesday, KSL-TV reported that two Moab residents, slackliner and climber Sylvan Christensen and BASE jumper Andy Lewis, have taken credit for dismantling and removing the structure, saying in a statement issued Tuesday night that the group removed the monolith because of the “damage caused by the internet sensationalism and subsequent reaction from the world.” To support their claim, the men posted a short video on YouTube called “We REMOVED the Utah monolith.” The other two men that were reportedly involved have not been identified. 

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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