Who is David Surber? Internet sleuth discovers location of mysterious Utah monolith

Bruno Cooke November 27, 2020
Who is David Surber? Internet sleuth discovers location of mysterious Utah monolith
Photo by Karla Ann Cote/NurPhoto via Getty Images

David Surber was the first of the ‘internet sleuths’ to locate a mysterious monolith located in the Utah desert. How did he find it? And who is David Surber? Let’s unravel the story behind this unusual occurrence – or at least what we know about it so far.

Introduction to the Utah monolith

Utah officials announced Monday that they had found an odd metallic structure deep in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

The first people to spot the feature were actually wildlife officials, who were conducting a helicopter flyover on 18 November.

The New York Times called it a “weird surprise” and CBS dubbed it a “mysterious alien-like monolith”, while the BBC simply refer to it as the “Utah monolith”. Whatever its appellation, the object has caused more than a ripple through this week’s news cycle.

Reddit users uncover monolith coordinates

Although the officials refused to say exactly where the monolith was, modern satellite and computing technologies facilitated the discovery of its precise location. 

Among those to jump to action was one Reddit user, who posted in the subreddit r/FindTheMonolith (which already has 3,500 members) two links to Google Earth and Google Maps locations.

So-called internet sleuths took just two days to track down and geo-locate the structure.

The coordinates point to a remote location in the Utah Red Rock desert, about 6km east of the meandering Colorado river. The nearest city is Moab, which serves as a gateway to the National Park.

First on the scene: David Surber

US Veteran David Surber was the first civilian to arrive at the Utah monolith, having followed the coordinates from the subreddit. 

According to the BBC report, Surber is a 33-year-old former US Army infantry officer. He decided to go there, having felt “drawn to the fact that this object had been there for five years, hidden in nature.” 

He announced to the Reddit community that he intended to visit the site. En route, Surber received messages requesting that he check the structure’s magnetism, and see if it contained a secret door.

He allegedly drove six hours through the night after spotting the Reddit post and was the first to arrive. However, he was soon joined by others who had seen the same coordinates. 

What does it mean? Where did it come from?

These questions are as yet unanswered. However, numerous people have speculated about the origins of the mysterious object.

The prevailing theory is that it is a piece of conceptual artwork, or “land art”. Potential artists include the late John McCracken – he died in 2011, so that would mean the structure had been in its location for almost a decade.

Petecia Le Fawnhawk installs similar totemic sculptures in secret locations. She also used to live and work in Utah, but has already admitted she “cannot claim this one”.

While some have compared the structure to the evolution catalyst from Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi classic, “2001: A Space Odyssey”, no one knows for sure whence it came.

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Bruno Cooke has been a freelance journalist since 2019, primarily with GRV Media. He was an early contributor to The Focus, and has written for HITC, Groundviews and the Sheffield University newspaper – he earned his MA in Global Journalism there in 2021. He’s the Spoken Word Poetry Editor for The Friday Poem, and self-published his debut novel Reveries in 2019, which his mum called both a “fine read” and “excellent Christmas present”. Bruno has lived in China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines and likes, among other things: bicycle touring, black and white Japanese films, pub quizzes, fermentation and baklava. In 2023, Bruno will set off with his partner on a round-the-world cycle.