From Arthur C. Clark’s 1951 short story, “The Sentinel,” part of the inspiration for 2001: A Space Odyssey:
Nearly a hundred thousand million stars are turning in the circle of the Milky Way, and long ago other races on the worlds of other suns must have scaled and passed the heights that we have reached. Think of such civilizations, far back in time against the fading afterglow of Creation, masters of a universe so young that life as yet had come only to a handful of worlds.
Theirs would have been a loneliness we cannot imagine, the loneliness of gods looking out across infinity and finding none to share their thoughts. They must have searched the star-clusters as we have searched the planets. Everywhere there would be worlds, but they would be empty or peopled with crawling, mindless things.
Such was our own Earth, the smoke of the great volcanoes still staining the skies, when that first ship of the peoples of the dawn came sliding in from the abyss beyond Pluto. It passed the frozen outer worlds, knowing that life could play no part in their destinies. It came to rest among the inner planets, warming themselves around the fire of the Sun and waiting for their stories to begin.
Those wanderers must have looked on Earth, circling safely in the narrow zone between fire and ice, and must have guessed that it was the favorite of the Sun’s children. Here, in the distant future, would be intelligence; but there were countless stars before -them still, and they might never come this way again.
SO THEY LEFT A SENTINEL, one of millions they have scattered throughout the Universe, watching over all worlds with the promise of life. It was a beacon that down the ages has been patiently signaling the fact that no one had discovered it.
Perhaps you understand now why that crystal pyramid was set upon the Moon instead of on the Earth. Its builders were not concerned with races still struggling up from savagery. They would be interested in our civilization only if we proved our fitness to survive -by crossing space and so escaping from the Earth, our cradle.
That is the challenge that all intelligent races must meet, sooner or later. It is a double challenge, for it depends in turn upon the conquest of atomic energy and the last choice between life and death. Once we had passed that crisis, it was only a matter of time before we found the pyramid and forced it open.
Now its signals have ceased, and those whose duty it is will be turning their minds upon Earth. Perhaps they wish to help our infant civilization. But they must be very, very old, and the old are often insanely jealous of the young.
I can never look now at the Milky Way without wondering from which of those banked clouds of stars the emissaries are coming. If you will pardon so commonplace a simile, we have set off the fire-alarm and have nothing to do but to wait. I do not think we will have to wait for long.
The story deals with the discovery of an artifact on Earth's Moon left behind eons ago by ancient aliens. The object is made of a polished mineral, is tetrahedral in shape, and is surrounded by a spherical forcefield. The narrator speculates at one point that the mysterious aliens who left this structure on the Moon may have used mechanisms belonging "to a technology that lies beyond our horizons, perhaps to the technology of para-physical forces."
The narrator speculates that for millions of years (evidenced by dust buildup around its forcefield) the artifact has been transmitting signals into deep space, but it ceases to transmit when, sometime later, it is destroyed "with the savage might of atomic power". The narrator hypothesizes that this "sentinel" was left on the Moon as a "warning beacon" for possible intelligent and spacefaring species that might develop on Earth.
The story was adapted and expanded upon in the 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, made by filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick and Clarke modified and fused the story with other ideas. Clarke expressed impatience with its common description as the story on which the novel and movie are based. He explained
I am continually annoyed by careless references to "The Sentinel" as "the story on which 2001 is based"; it bears about as much relation to the movie as an acorn to the resultant full-grown oak. (Considerably less, in fact, because ideas from several other stories were also incorporated.) Even the elements that Stanley Kubrick and I did actually use were considerably modified. Thus the 'glittering, roughly pyramidal structure… set in the rock like a gigantic, many-faceted jewel' became—after several modifications—the famous black monolith. And the locale was moved from the Mare Crisium to the most spectacular of all lunar craters, Tycho—easily visible to the naked eye from Earth at Full Moon.
Now a mysterious Arthur C Clarke-style monolith appears in ROMANIA after unexplained metal vanished from Utah – so who (or what) put it there?
· Mysterious metal monolith has appeared in northern Romania after another vanished from the desert in Utah
· The shiny triangular pillar was found on Batcas Doamnei Hill in the city of Piatra Neamt last Thursday
· One side of the structure, which is 13 feet tall, faces Mount Ceahlau, known locally as the Holy Mountain
A mysterious metal monolith has appeared in Romania this week after another similar structure found in the remote Utah desert was removed by an 'unknown party'.
The shiny triangular pillar was found on Batca Doamnei Hill in the city of Piatra Neamt in northern Romania last Thursday.
It was spotted a few metres away from the well-known archaeological landmark the Petrodava Dacian Fortress, an fort built by the ancient Dacian people between 82 BC and AD 106.
The peculiar find comes after a similar monolith was found in the Utah desert with no explanation, sparking wry speculation that it could have been the work of aliens, but is more likely the work of a prankster inspired by science fiction novel 2001: A Space Odyssey.
In the book by Arthur C Clarke, later made into a film by Stanley Kubrick, a monolith first appears on Earth in Africa three million years ago and appears to confer intelligence upon a starving tribe of great apes to develop tools.
2001: A Space Odyssey
2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 science fiction novel by Arthur C Clarke, later made into a film with the same name by Stanley Kubrick.
In the book, a monolith first appears on Earth in Africa three million years ago and appears to confer intelligence upon a starving tribe of giant apes to develop tools.
The monolith is used as a tool by an alien race to investigate worlds across the galaxy and to encourage the development of intelligent life.
In the book, the tribe approach the monolith, and unknown to them, their minds were being studied and their actions controlled by an alien race.
The great apes use their tools to kill animals to eat meat to end their starvation, and to kill a predatory leopard.
The next day, the main character, Moon-Watcher, uses a club to kill the leader of a rival tribe of apes, leading to an awakening of intelligence and the development of humans.
The book explores technological innovation and traces the development of humans from great apes. It considers the evolution that has led to intelligent life.
When 2001: A Space Odyssey was written, humans had not yet set foot on the moon. The book offers a glimpse of Clarke's imagination of what space exploration might look like.
The monolith is used as a tool by an alien race to investigate worlds across the galaxy and to encourage the development of intelligent life.
In the book, the great apes use their tools to kill animals to eat meat to end their starvation, and to kill a predatory leopard. The next day, the main character uses a club to kill the leader of a rival tribe of apes, leading to an awakening of intelligence and the development of humans.
In Utah, the pillar, which protruded approximately 12 feet from the red rocks in southern Utah, was spotted last Wednesday by baffled local BLM officials who were counting bighorn sheep from a helicopter.
However the three-sided structure was removed by an 'unknown party' on Friday evening, the Bureau of Land Management Utah said in a statement.
News of the discovery in Utah quickly went viral online, with many noting the object's similarity to the strange alien monoliths that trigger huge leaps in human progress in Kubrick's classic sci-fi film '2001: A Space Odyssey.'
In Romania, the triangular structure has a height of about 13 feet and one side faces Mount Ceahlau, known locally as the Holy Mountain.
It is one of the most famous mountains in Romania, and is listed as one of the seven natural wonders of the country.
Romanian officials still do not know who is responsible for erecting the mysterious monolith.
Neamt Culture and Heritage official Rocsana Josanu said: 'We have started looking into the strange appearance of the monolith.
'It is on private property, but we still don't know who the monolith's owner is yet. It is in a protected area on an archaeological site.'
She added: 'Before installing something there, they needed permission from our institution, one that must then be approved by the Ministry of Culture.'
But many tracked down the co-ordinates and published them - leading people to drive many hours through the night to reach the 12ft aluminium structure.
And it was revealed that a similar version appeared nearly 20 years ago on New Years Day in Seattle.
However access to the site involved a 45-minute off-road drive on a dirt track many miles from any major town at 10mph - and then a 15-minute hike up a dry stream bed.
Across the globe UFO spotters and conspiracy theorists became obsessed with the shiny, triangular pillar.
Officials suggest it could be have been constructed by an artist or a huge fan of 2001: Space Odyssey - the structure resembles the machines found in Arthur C. Clarke's story (pictured)
Though the structure was only discovered by authorities this month, Google Earth images show it had been standing since at least 2015 or 2016.
Lieutenant Nick Street, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said it's possible the structure had been there for '40, 50 years, maybe more.'
'It's the type of material that doesn't degrade with the elements. It may only be a few years old, who knows. There's no real way based on the material it's made out of how long it's actually been there,' he said on Tuesday.
Others pointed out the object's resemblance to the avant-garde work of John McCracken, an American artist who lived for a time in nearby New Mexico, and died in 2011.
McCracken was known for his freestanding sculptures in the shape of pyramids, cubes, or sleek slabs.
The monolith most closely resembles McCracken's plank-like sculptures featured at his exhibit at the David Zwirner art gallery in New York.
On Tuesday a spokeswoman for David Zwirner said it was not one of McCracken's works, but possibly by a fellow artist paying homage.
However later in the day Zwirner gave another statement which suggested the piece was indeed by McCracken, meaning it had lain undiscovered in the desert for nearly a decade.
'The gallery is divided on this,' Zwirner said. 'I believe this is definitely by John.'
Utah has a history of 'land art,' unusual installations that cropped up far from population centers in the 1960s and '70s.
The most famous, Spiral Jetty, a 1,500-foot-long coil by artist Robert Smithson in 1970 that's composed entirely of mud, salt crystals and basalt.
Located on the northeastern edge of the Great Salt Lake near Rozel Point, the jetty appears and disappears depending on water levels.
So far, no one has stepped forward to claim responsibility for the monolith, though
Earthlings, It Seems, Not Aliens, Removed the Utah Monolith
A photographer said four men dismantled the mysterious shiny object that has captivated the country.
Ross Bernards took moonlit photographs of his friend Peter Jans atop the monolith in southeastern Utah on Nov. 27. Moments later they witnessed its removal.Credit...Ross Bernards
By Serge F. Kovaleski, Deborah Solomon and Zoe Rosenberg
- Dec. 1, 2020Updated 11:04 a.m. ET
It was, by most standards, a short stay. The pop-up metal monolith that became the focus of international attention after it was spotted in a remote section of the Utah desert on Nov. 18 was dismantled just 10 days later. Government officials continued to insist on Monday that they had no information about either the installation or removal — and possible theft — of the piece, which had been placed on public land.
The office of the San Juan County Sheriff at first announced that it was declining to investigate the case in the absence of complaints about missing property. To underscore that point, it uploaded a “Most Wanted” poster on its website, or rather a jokey version of one in which the faces of suspects were replaced by nine big-eyed aliens. But by the end of Monday, the sheriff’s office had reversed its position and announced that it was planning a joint investigation with the Bureau of Land Management, a federal agency.
It was left to an adventure photographer, Ross Bernards, to disclose evidence on Instagram. Mr. Bernards, 34, of Edwards, Colo., was visiting the monolith on Friday night when, he said, four men arrived as if out of nowhere to dismantle the sculpture. Mr. Bernards had driven six hours for the chance to ogle the sculpture and to take dramatic photographs of it. Using upscale Lume Cube lights attached to a drone, he produced a series of glowy, moonlit pictures in which the monolith glistens against the red cliffs and the deep blue of the night sky.
Suddenly, around 8:40 p.m., he said, the men arrived, their voices echoing in the canyon. Working in twosomes, with an unmistakable sense of purpose, they gave the monolith hard shoves, and it started to tilt toward the ground. Then they pushed it in the opposite direction, trying to uproot it.
“This is why you don’t leave trash in the desert,” one of them said, suggesting that he viewed the monolith as an eyesore, a pollutant to the landscape, according to Mr. Bernards.
The sculpture popped out and landed on the ground with a bang. Then the men broke it apart and ferried it off in a wheelbarrow.
“As they walked off with the pieces, one of them said, ‘Leave no trace,’” Mr. Bernards recalled in a telephone interview.
Michael James Newlands said he took these cellphone photos of four men dismantling the monolith in Utah on Friday night. “They just came in there to execute and they were, like, ‘This is our mission,’” he said.Credit...Michael James Newlands
“It must have been 10 or 15 minutes at most for them to knock over the monolith and pull it out,” Mr. Newlands said.Credit...Michael James Newlands
He did not photograph the men who took down the sculpture, saying he “didn’t want to start a confrontation by bringing out my camera and putting it in their face — especially since I agreed with what they were doing.”
But a friend who accompanied him on the trip, Michael James Newlands, 38, of Denver, took a few quick photographs with his cellphone.
“It must have been 10 or 15 minutes at most for them to knock over the monolith and pull it out,” he told The New York Times. “We didn’t know who they were, and we were not going to do anything to stop them.” He added, “They just came in there to execute and they were like, ‘This is our mission.’”
The photos are blurry, but they fascinate, nonetheless. Here are images of several men working beneath the cover of darkness, wearing gloves but not face masks, standing above the fallen monolith. We can see its exposed insides. It turns out to be a hollow structure with an armature made from plywood.
The photographs are the only known images of the culprits who removed the sculpture; they may not have been the same people who installed it in the first place. Lt. Nick Street, a spokesman for the Utah Department of Public Safety, said last week that the monolith had been embedded into the rock.
In the past few days, artists had been casually speculating that whoever put the sculpture up probably had taken it down once it was discovered, as if aspiring to be anonymous artist-activists, the Banksy of the desert.
But art-world speculation had not yielded too many facts. Initially, the monolith was linked to John McCracken, a California-born artist who died in 2011 and harbored a taste for science fiction. David Zwirner, the New York art dealer who represents the artist’s estate and first identified the monolith as an authentic McCracken, stepped forward on Monday to tell The Times that he had studied photographs of it and no longer had any idea who had made it.
Almine Rech, who represents the artist at her galleries in Paris and Brussels, also contacted a reporter to deny that the desert monolith was a McCracken.
All of this leaves us not an iota closer to solving the mystery of the Utah sculpture.
On the plus side, the monolith that captivated the country over the past week, then disappeared as quickly as it entered public consciousness, continues to provide a pleasant sensation of uncertainty. Would it lose its aura and power if we knew who had created it?