The Pathway to Mars

Geoglyphs and Crop Circle Phenomena

by Mary Bennett
 

See also Marree Man: Variations on an Enigma

GeoglyphsIn the book Alien Intelligence and the Pathway to Mars on page 260 and pages 370-73 there is mention of further geoglyphs which have been linked to the crop circle phenomena by those who discovered them.

The two articles reproduced here are as written at the time of publication in the Crop Circle press of 2001. The references have been updated to facilitate further research.

In the online edition of Swirled News for 11 July 2001, the editor Andy Thomas wrote:

Two months back, the Wiltshire Crop Circle Study Group published an article revealing the presence of a vast ‘sand spiral’ in the Egyptian desert. But what is it? Land art? An ET-created pattern? A computer-generated fraud? Further investigations, initiated by Swirled News, reveal a tangled web of confusion and intrigue, as MARY BENNETT, co-author of Dark Moon: Apollo and the Whistle-Blowers, reveals in PART ONE of a two-part article.

MIRACLES IN THE SAND: CONFUSION AND CONUNDRUMS

In May 2001, The Spiral magazine (newsletter of the Wiltshire Crop Circle Study Group) published an aerial photo of sand, shaped into cones and wells and spiralling out from a large central well, itself containing a cone. Flying over them in a micro-light one August afternoon in the year 2000, Boris Stobe, (who claimed responsibility for the photograph seen in The Spiral) thought that the beautiful scene set out below him was of such precision, “it seemed to be a miracle”.

Sand Spiral

Fig 1. The Sand Spiral, Egypt, image Orascom.

It was nearly a year later that this photo was sent to The Spiral (and how ironic is it that a photo of sand spirals found its way to this particular title?) by Dr. Hartmut Endlich, a friend of Boris Stobe’s father. And that is how this legend – that a sand formation had arrived in the Eastern Desert of Egypt – was born.

As Boris’ photo looked very much like the photos of this sand spiral that I had seen many years earlier, (figure 1) I was mildly intrigued as to why this collection of sand cones and hollows was now turning up in the crop circle community. Searching through my archives I found the article that had appeared in the March 1998 edition of the (now defunct) magazine COVER. Looking at them again, I remembered the feeling I’d had the first time I saw these photos: they had taken my breath away with the beauty and sense of serenity that emanated from the sculpted desert. In a flash I had made mental connections to the 1994 Galaxy crop formation in Wiltshire and to the 1996 Windmill Hill triple spiral (figures 2a&b).

The Galaxy

Fig 2a. The 1994 Galaxy, Wiltshire, UK, image Steve Alexander.

Windmill Hill Spiral

Fig 2b. The 1996 Windmill Hill tripple spiral, UK, Steve Alexander.

But the small block of accompanying text told me that this Egyptian spiral had been created by three young Greek women. Using letters from their first names, they called themselves the ‘D.A.ST. Team’.

However, there was also something about the photos of this spiral seen in COVER that didn’t ring quite true, especially when compared with the Boris Stobe photo. Or perhaps it was the other way round. The thought that something didn’t quite fit would not go away and I went on the net to find out more about D.A.ST. The available media coverage of this amazing artistic event was conspicuous by its absence. In May 2001 there were no web sites under either the artists’ names, nor under their D.A.ST. name, nor under the official name of this sand spiral: ‘Desert Breath’ (I shall continue to call it the ‘sand spiral’). I found three press clippings of a few lines long: one from The Middle East Times archives (undated and uninformative) and two from Greek sources. I came up with the fact that due to the very high winds experienced by that particular region of the Eastern Desert, it was only expected to last six months after its completion in March 1997. Finally, I found a one-page biography for the D.A.ST. sculptor – so I emailed her. No reply.

COVER magazine had credited another journal, INTERIORS, with the story, so I spoke to their editorial department and learned that they had not gone to Egypt themselves but talked to the artists and then written up their article. The photos were transparencies. I ordered a copy of their November 1997 issue and when it arrived more was revealed and more questions were raised. From this article I learned that these three Greeks (average age 29) consisted of a sculptor, an industrial designer and an architect, trained at St. Martin’s School of Art, Rhode Island School of Design and The Architectural Association respectively. I learned that computer-generated pictures of their desert dream had been created “which are astonishingly like the real thing”. They had “the luck and cleverness to find themselves an extremely generous sponsor”. The desert where they worked “was quite stony and the earth hard and compacted rather than soft and fluid like a beach”. They “built up the cones in tiers like wedding cakes”. They “took nine months to complete their project – from August 1996 through to April 1997” and “it could well last for 50 to 100 years”.

These dates of creation do not fit with those given by the artists, and this timing for decades of dissolution doesn’t fit with that of the “six months” given by the sponsoring company – hold those thoughts!

The INTERIORS article informed us that the actual building of this project should have finished in November 1996, but only 19 days before completion there was an horrendous and completely unexpected storm over this desert art project. The D.A.ST team took another four months to get the project repaired and completed and an inauguration ceremony was finally held in the first week of March 1997. While this date aligns with the COVER article it date contradicts the the earlier information in this INTERIORS article. And both magazines obtained their information from the same source: the D.A.ST. artists.

In the world of art, as in the world of crop, reality and unreality are two sides of the same coin, and, as it happened, the young German’s choice of the words "it seemed to be a miracle" in The Spiral were particularly apt. That this sand spiral was in the sands of Egypt was apparently a miracle of engineering and art; that it is still there to this day, in complete contradiction to the published material relating to these sand spirals, is even more miraculous – isn’t it?

It was certainly confusing to see that Stobe photo in The Spiral magazine of something that shouldn’t, according to the record, exist. That, together with the acknowledgement that computer-generated images had been used, made me wonder if there was anything in the desert at all. It made me wonder if the whole installation INCLUDING all the media releases – whether in the press or on video were not themselves an integral part of this project? After all, apart from tourists going on diving holidays from the Red Sea resorts, not many people were going to get to see this great oeuvre. So, were the observer’s reaction to the press equally a part of this project? From an artistic point of view, nothing wrong with that of course, and so far the prose style and the imagery didn’t encourage the idea that this sand spiral really existed in three-dimensional reality. Others had also commented on the artificiality of the images taken of this sand spiral. My phone bill had a mild heart attack as I started on a round of enquiries.

I contacted the Egyptian tourist office in London. They had never heard of any such sand spiral formation, asked me to let THEM know what I found out(!) and recommended I try Hurghada Tourist information. At some 13 miles away from El Gouna, it was the nearest official tourist information outlet on the Red Sea Coast. I did. They had never heard of it either. I got onto the web site for El Gouna – which turned out to be a dynamic purpose-built holiday resort. The first hotel had been there since 1990 and it was certainly not “a small village inhabited by the local population” as inferred by Boris in The Spiral magazine. Anyway, guess what? No mention of this art project as being worthy of a visit at all, although it did figure on one of their cartoon maps of the resort. ‘Contact us’, it said on their web site, so I did – and no reply. I was getting into the swing of things by now. My phone bill was admitted to hospital while I went back to the web site and telephoned the Cairo number also featured on the El Gouna web site. Several times.

Eventually, Egyptian English and English English made an agreement to understand each other and I found myself talking to a marketing executive of Orascom Hotel Holdings, owners of El Gouna (along with Orascom Project and Tourist Development, the group which originally sponsored the D.A.ST team. By 2001 they had amalgamated). The Orascom executive I spoke to was most charming and helpful – except that she didn’t know anything about the sand spiral. This was puzzling as she had already told me that she went to El Gouna very often. She went to make enquiries and days later she emailed me – according to her colleagues it existed, and she promised to send me some ‘real-time’ photos on her next visit to El Gouna that weekend. Nothing happened.

Then I had a series of emails explaining the absence of photos: she had to put her visit off twice, then her colleagues would not take any photos of this installation – because it wasn’t their job – so they would want to be paid for doing that. Here, let’s remember, we are talking about a company-sponsored project of nearly the biggest modern land art installation on the planet – situated just over six miles from the company resort and not quite a mile away from one of their tourist excursion sites – The Oasis. Head office asks them to do something and the company men can’t/won’t. Perhaps I’m using too much of an English perspective on this – but even this answer spoke volumes.

However, the oddities that I was collecting were telling me that something about this whole project was wrong. The main Egyptian sponsors of this art project Orascom P.T.D. are a part of one of the most important (if not THE most important) private companies in Egypt. Orascom belongs to the Sawiris family who are Egypt’s industrial real-estate tycoons. They are the backbone of Egyptian private enterprise and have interests in everything of importance to their country, from cement to cellular phones.

So, this company is no Mickey Mouse outfit – even if some critics have labelled their desert holiday resort of El Gouna ‘Disney-like’, thanks partly to its reconstruction of traditional Egyptian architectural styles developed on a series of lagoons. One hour from Cairo by plane, it is the preferred place for sophisticated and well-off Cairenes to relax. Tourists from Germany and Switzerland also prefer to take their diving holidays there. According to my Orascom contact, they had spent ‘a small fortune’ on this sand spiral project. So why hadn’t they used it? Why no publicity? Why were they so shy about its presence? I asked all these questions and got the reply that they must be bad at marketing. Given their high rating in Forbes magazine, and their enthusiastic write-ups in the world’s financial press, including one on the quality of Orascom’s staff, I found this reply less than adequate. To spend ‘a small fortune’ on a unique work of art and then totally ignore its potential as a marketing tool in a growing and highly competitive tourist industry didn’t make sense. Yet.

I was beginning to get an idea that would explain this blip on the part of these sponsors – I went off to research this ‘idea’ and, reasonably satisfied with the results, returned to nag Orascom. I told them of my difficulty in believing in the existence of something that some four years earlier their own company considered would last only six months. She told me on the phone that this spiral was still standing because they had used cement. Several emails later, she told me that wasn’t correct, but that they had used some kind of 'glow’. I think she meant ‘glue’. Later, I would find out that although ignoring most of the questions in my emails – including a request for information as to how to contact the D.A.ST. team – she was actually talking to the sculptor all the time, which is, no doubt, how she got this ‘glow’ information. Much later, I spotted another company mentioned in the credits for this project which made marine coatings and paints. She might have meant ‘varnish’.

It was certainly getting sticky, and operating from this position of doubt over this sand spiral’s existence made me wonder even more about the reasons for Dr. Endlich sending a photo of it to The Spiral. So I contacted Dr. Endlich and asked him why he thought that this sand formation was akin to crop glyphs, and he replied that people wouldn’t know how to do the geometry inherent in this formation. It had a purity about it. I said that trained artists, sculptors and architects would know how do it, but I don’t know if I convinced him, even when I mentioned the D.A.ST team.

I then asked him who, in his opinion, made the crop glyphs? “A form of consciousness” he said, but added that the idea that they were made by “little green men” was “frankly ludicrous”. As ET hadn’t been on the agenda, this outburst was surprising. We agreed to disagree about ET intelligence and its ramifications for humanity. I’ve met many scientists who are happy to talk about consciousness – as long as it emanates from human beings on this planet. I added the fact that those who were publicising this sand formation in 2001 were all medical doctors into my oddities bag and pressed on. Now that I had Boris Stobes’s phone number I set off to damage my phone bill even further. At this rate I would soon be visiting it in the intensive care ward.

Dr. Stobes’ son [said that he had] used a single reflex camera and 200 ISO film and took two photos between 3pm and 4pm on an August 2000 afternoon. As this is what the shadows in his pic were telling me, I was quite happy with that – but less happy with the fact that there were no shadows on the floor of the desert from the body of the standing cones, and, given the angle of the sun, there should have been, I thought. Could he explain that? No, he didn’t know why that should be.

These standing cones go from the tallest at 3.75 meters on the outside edges, down to the very small at the centre. All the wells and cones are positive-negative versions of each other, matching in height and depth and circumference. I can see no reason that at mid-afternoon the body shadows from the standing/positive cones should be missing – but I am not looking at the original print. Boris also told me that from the height he was flying (he thought it was around 300 feet up) the whole thing looked absolutely perfect.

Then another thing dropped into my oddities bag: when I asked him if he had subsequently visited this formation from the ground, he said “No”. Astonished, I pursued the point. He just hadn’t. He didn’t know why. I found it difficult to match his tone of voice and lack of interest to the person who had written: “When I saw the formation from the air, it made a deep impression in me – it was of such precision, it seems a miracle” (sic).

I could hardly believe I was talking to someone who apparently had asked everyone around as to how it had got there – but his tone was consistent with someone who HADN’T had the curiosity to take a five to ten minute ride from El Gouna and walk freely amongst the cones and wells to experience his ‘perfect miracle’ from the ground.

I went back to the net – surprise! Five weeks after my first enquiries, with barely any reference on the net, we now had a smartly designed web site up and running for one of the artists, and within which was a different biography sheet and a different email address. I fired off an email – and a few days later I got an answer – to my original email. We arranged to speak and finally my phone bill was put onto a life-support system.

Our conversation was most interesting and added two or three things to my oddity bag. When I asked how it was that something so expensive was totally ignored by Orascom, I was told “it didn’t cost a lot, we were given old people and children to work with”. This turned out to be inaccurate, as you will read in the next episode. When I asked why the dates of dissolution were of six months for a work that was still apparently in existence, I was told that “the Orascom people must be muddling up the time it took to make the spirals”. And that was certainly not correct – in every PR clip on this work, the time span was quoted as being nine months for the physical construction. Nowhere in any of the timing for this piece can we extract the figure of six months. As far as I can see right now, the only reason that it could have changed to the “50 to 100 years” quoted in the INTERIORS article is if, after the storm flooded out the project in November 1996, the construction methods changed during the last four months of construction, thus rendering the cones and wells more stable, but then losing the natural erosion time of six months calculated at least by the engineers and surveyors of Orascom, if not the artists.

Is this where that ‘glow’ fits in? Why should the long-lasting qualities of this project suddenly take over from the artistic imperative of documenting the natural evolution of matter through time as wished for by the artists? Our conversation had certainly given me food for thought and I mulled these questions over as I waited for the sculptor to send me video of her work, in which there was a segment on the construction of the ‘Desert Breath’ sand spiral. I wondered if it would turn out to be something of a Trojan Horse, and if so what exactly would it be hiding? At the end of these five weeks, and having spoken to the sculptor, I was pretty much convinced that they had indeed piled up the sand and dug out the wells out in the desert by El Gouna, but my bag of oddities had grown much heavier. Too many questions still went without answers – and my ‘idea’ was taking shape. I went to collect my phone bill from hospital – it was in remission.


On 16 August 2001 Swirled News prefaced the next part of this investigation with this:

The second part of MARY BENNETT’S important investigation into the mysterious ‘sand spiral’ which appeared in the Egyptian desert, looks more deeply into the contradictions and anomalies in the ‘official’ explanation and examines the story’s links to other works of ‘land art’ with similar implications. Not read Part One yet? Scroll through our Headlines and do so first – otherwise, read on.

MIRACLES IN THE SAND – PART TWO

GREEK GAMES

I’d started out on this enquiry because a photo turned up in 2001 that was immediately attributed to the crop circle phenomenon – with no questions asked. From my previous knowledge I thought this wasn’t the case and that a minimum amount of research would be better than taking everything at face value. Despite making known the results of my preliminary enquiries to the editor of The Spiral magazine, two months later they published an incorrect map in which the actual site of the ‘sand formation’ was not even within it’s prescribed boundaries! The picture caption was also completely inaccurate in every respect; nor were its readers in possession of the precise number of components making up this project, so the number theories which subsequently appeared in letter responses were based on the wrong quantities of cones and hollows actually present in the desert. These readers’ interpretation of location, symbols, myth and number may have been correct in themselves, but they could NOT relate to this desert Spiral.1

By the time I talked to both Dr. Hartmut Endlich and Boris Stobe, I was definitely in the domain of ‘man-made artefact’ and despite opposing viewpoints on matters philosophical and cosmological, Dr. Endlich was both charming and helpful. Boris Stobe also gave me as much information as he could – and I thank them both, since they weren’t obliged to speak to me at all. However, in my attempt to establish what had happened in the Egyptian Desert, the Greeks and Egyptians might have felt that I was devaluing their creative ingenuity and philanthropy respectively. If that was so, they hid it well during our conversations. Indeed both the D.A.ST. sculptor, and Orascom’s marketing executive were nothing but courtesy.

This politeness didn’t stop them both from studiously ignoring many of my emailed questions from which I can only conclude that my questions cause problems. But all of this didn’t hinder D.A.ST.’s generosity – when my particular Trojan Horse arrived it was full of goodies including a large 52 page photographic essay detailing the sand spiral ‘Desert Breath’. While inclined to look my gift horse in the mouth, I still had to sort out my oddities bag, so I read the book, studied the images, watched the video and then the CD-ROM, which was basically the same in content as the artist’s web site.2

Taking the photography first, if one takes the point of view that this entire project – video and photographic documentation included – is a ‘body of work’, then whether the photography is ‘real’ or computer generated, or a mixture of both, is no longer relevant. However, as I was becoming more and more persuaded that D.A.ST. had indeed spent their time making sand castles in Egypt, I shall mention in passing that I did question these photos with the sculptor. I was told that the photos were not computer generated, except for some of the top shots – and that I would easily be able to tell the difference. Hmmm. Concerning my shadow problems, I was told that in her experience, lighting conditions in the Eastern Desert between sunrise and sundown were not the same as elsewhere. Another Hmmm. Look at the web site and decide for yourselves.

Turning to the text in this catalogue, I was astonished to discover words and dates that contradicted not only the statements made by Orascom, but also those made by D.A.ST. themselves. Artists are usually extremely fussy about the presentation of their work – it is their calling card. If these discrepancies were printing mistakes, then why were they not spotted? As the text was copyrighted 1997-1998, there had been plenty of time to ‘get it right’. Here is a sentence from the introduction:

The fact that the sand’s ‘fluidity’ might at any time betray their sculptural invention was what in turn ensured the principle, as they imagined, of its obliteration.4

We visualise soft and flowing sand dunes. And many of the images tell us the same soft story. But don’t drift off into dreamland, because this isn’t quite how it is. The D.A.ST. team’s text also describes the desert at that particular site very differently:

Compact, containing a large percentage of silt and salt. When sprayed with water and compacted it becomes very hard and creates a strong dry layer on the surface that is subject to wind erosion. The earth under this crust retains humidity for an extended period of time and doesn’t behave in the fluid manner of sand dunes.

So, you see, no danger of imminent betrayal after all. This fundamental difference in the nature of the sand/soil at their chosen location, combined with the (never, ever mentioned) judicious use of cement in some parts of this project, renders this introduction at best ineffective, at worst, misleading. Especially when they write, “Desert Breath was constructed out of sand and water. Transient elements, elements which were offered from the site itself.” Well, never mind the integrity of the text, where exactly was this site?

It lay between the Red Sea coast and a body of mountains and was once an ancient sea bed – hence the silt and salt composition of the earth. It also lay within sight of a main road. To get an idea of the area covered by this sand spiral, think of Avebury in the UK.

Avebury, Wiltshire, UK

Fig 3. Avebury Henge Wiltshire, and attendant village (see chapter seven in The Pathway to Mars).

This henge, the largest bank and ditch enclosure in the world contains an area of just over 28 acres/11.52ha. The El Gouna sand spiral 'Desert Breath' covers an area of nearly 24.7 acres/10.16ha. Or if it’s easier, you could think of it as being larger than the O2 Arena, the London Dome, which covers an area of 20acres/8.2ha.

The standing cones were created from the sand dug out to form the inverted cones. 178 conical volumes (89 of each) form two interlocking logarithmic spirals moving out (with a phase difference of 180 degrees in the same direction of rotation) from a common centre. As the D.A.ST. team saw it, this centre was the heart of this project: it consisted of a large inverted cone some 98ft/30 metres in diameter. From within which a standing cone emerged, making, therefore, a total of 180 cone components. Originally filled with water to nearly the tip if its standing cone, this central pool reflected the sky (and the surrounding mountains in some pictures). Despite mixing this silt/salt/earth with cement to retain the water, this soon evaporated, revealing the entirety of the central cone. The pool was supposed to be refilled several times a year. My questions as to the maintenance of this water ritual have gone unanswered. But then, as the artists wrote “We were addressing the desert as a state of mind, a landscape of the mind”. So, it seems, am I.

Albeit, theirs appeared to be a somewhat incoherent state of mind. On one page I read: “the actual construction began at the end of June 1995”, but two pages later it states: “on-site excavation began in the beginning of August 1996”. I have met this sort of dating muddle before, and on that occasion it had betrayed a deep-rooted problem with the chain of actual events. Was this going to be the same? Right now I just didn’t know. What I did know, because they told me so in their book, was that the principle of time, “beginnings-endings”, was a vital and integral part of this artistic work. So it was even more amazing that the basic beginning date of actual construction had two different versions from the artists themselves! If you think I’m nit-picking, look a this, from another two pages further on:

The time-planning for the construction was a very important issue, the simultaneous completion of all the elements to converge upon one single moment in time, the moment of geometrical precision, which marks time zero before the work is turned over to the forces of nature to begin its gradual transformation.

Or not so gradual, depending on that ‘glow’/glue I had been told had been a vital part of holding the structure together. Of course, artists don’t necessarily have to 'tell us how they did it' but when they voluntarily devote an entire book to doing just that, one has to ask why some aspects are seemingly glossed over or plain contradictory? Why is there a lack of transparency in a process devoted to revealing all? While I was busy writing in these potential puns (I still don’t know what that ‘glow’ is) my phone rang, but I was engrossed in reading about the construction processes relating to this sand castle of all sand castles and took no notice. Bells would be ringing much louder later.

They spent the first month (choose your own year) on site, doing “general surveying of the area, orientation and positioning and installing a pipeline to bring water from the nearby Oasis”. They also conducted final tests for the application of their selected construction method. For the duration of the Greek’s project Orascom gave them open access to their engineering and surveying departments. They had a surveying team on site with them – on a daily basis. They had a site engineer, two foremen, and an average crew of 60 workers. According to an article on the D.A.ST. CD-ROM, a crew of 70 worked on a rotating basis.5

Remembering that I’d been told that the artists worked with “old people and children” I had a look for them in the video and the pictures I was sent, but try as I might, all I could see was lots of men, working with machinery, carrying sand and moving water pipes – none of them looked ancient, nor did they look like children. They looked like a bunch of construction workers with hard muscles.

Desert Breath sand plankers

Fig 4. 'Desert Breath' /Orascom. Sand plankers, although the remaining traces on the sand do not match the top shot of this enterprise seen in fig 1. For a full collection of construction pictures posted since the writing of this article, see footnote [a].

In fact, the sculptor’s statement didn’t fit with any of the documentation, whether written, photographic or video and, in any case, it was totally unnecessary – so why make it? Here’s another bizarre moment from our conversation: These three Greek women had worked: “From sunrise to sundown seven days a week and slept in mud houses”. The inference was of a primitive abode and a desperate race against time. “We were like soldiers”, she said to me and I had privately wondered who their General was and what the war was about.6

If this particular battle was with the forces of nature, I could see their point – the wind blows with such a force that the palm tree leaves are at right angles to the ground; but it is virtually constant, so there’s no point in trying to beat it.7 If their battle was against time, because of limited funds, I could also see the point. However, despite the fact that Orascom had also lent them two heavy loaders, a mechanical digger, several tractors and trailers, together with the gift of any other materials they required – such as cement for that central pool, metal poles of varying lengths (to mark the central core of each cone) and possibly that ‘glow’ – despite all of this, according to D.A.ST. the whole exercise “wasn’t very expensive at all”. And surely, if the sponsors had felt that it truly was a question of ‘time is money’ they would indeed have pressured the artists, who would not then have made a point of telling me how cheap their project had been.

So what was the imperative that made it necessary to work flat out from sunrise to sundown using rotating crews of workers to get the job done? Why not go about creating a work of art in ‘normal’ time – as a part of life, and not as the quasi-military exercise described to me? I didn’t ring Greece to ask for answers to all this; I was tired of sending emails full of questions that either got cherry-picked, or were ignored. My phone bill was still in convalescence after its recent stroke and if I was being given at best, misinformation, there had to be a reason for it. Right now two things had become clear: everybody concerned seemed to be up against extreme pressure to get the project done fast. Someone was also apparently prepared to put up a lot of money to build a work of interactive art that would thereafter be mentioned as little as possible – never would be even better – but then nothing is perfect in three dimensions!

I decided to make a out a timetable of events. Ignoring, just for the moment, that ’mistake’ of June 1995 being day one excavation date, according to the record we have:

June 1995 – first site visit. “Inspiration”!
June-Sept 1995 – intensive experimenting of “inspired idea” back in Greece.
September 1995 – Chairman of Orascom agrees to sponsor project.
September 1995-June 1996 – collaboration with “a group of architects, engineers, mathematicians and geologists, to resolve construction problems”. Several site visits. Criteria for documentation of project established, involving Greek sponsors.
August 1996 – actual work of excavating cones starts.
November 16th 1996 – a storm of unprecedented proportions floods the area and greatly damages the construction. Inauguration, set for 13 days later, is cancelled.
March 1997 – project finally finished. 24.7 acres of desert have been covered with cones and wells.
September 1997 – follow-up photos taken, two appear in this catalogue together with a description of the erosion process thus far (minimal).

There follows a handful of reviews world-wide, mostly in the art press. D.A.ST. use the documentation material for a few art exhibitions. The group go about their separate careers. The D.A.ST. publicity material insisted that their work of art near El Gouna was designed to be seen from two points of view:

In order for the visitor to comprehend the work in all its dimensions he had to see it from two visual angles: one by walking inside it in order to appreciate the spiral motion through the change of rhythm and the scale of the cones, and the other from above where he acquires a total image of the work.8

With this in mind is it not even more astonishing that this fundamental artistic principle has not been exploited by the El Gouna publicity machine, promoting this project as a unique interactive artistic experience for their tourists? Or that the artists would be a little more vociferous about the lack of attention to their work? Orascom did send me, by email, an article purporting to be from the El Gouna web site of Spring 2000, celebrating Desert Breath’s third anniversary. But there were no pictures of the spiral circa 2000, not even copies of D.A.ST.’s September 1997 photos – only old construction pictures prior to April 1997. I can’t say for sure that this article ever appeared on the El Gouna web site, nor can I understand how the El Gouna web site can show such an article without bothering to send someone 10 minutes down the road to take an updated picture to go with the text. Still, I do see that if they couldn’t do it for themselves they were hardly going to bother sending me an updated photo!

I had questioned the sculptor about Orascom’s seeming lack of awareness concerning their sculpture and apparent desire for no publicity. Her suggestion that with the exception of the chairman, Orascom ‘s organisation was filled with young people who didn’t know what was going on, ran against all the research that I had done on this company and its owners, the Sawiris family, of whom in 1998 The Cairo Times stated: “The men with vision are back, unafraid to take risks with their venture capital. Which is why today, (just like the Suares family years ago) they are duly recognised by Egypt's government and head of state”.9 Yet these brave visionaries are afraid of mentioning their philanthropic and expensive creation of the most extraordinary collection of mud pies ever to be poured out of a bucket.

It has been more like a mirage in the desert. Until May 2001 when Boris Stobe flew over it and a picture was sent to the heart of croppie country at a particularly interesting moment of croppiedom’s evolution. According to Colin Andrews, a prominent UK crop circle researcher by then based in the USA, we had hit the 80/20 ratio in favour of man made crop circles, the cattle disease of Foot and Mouth was prevalent throughout Britain, and in May, at the epicentre of crop circle activity, the spiral mound of Silbury Hill in Wiltshire acquired a huge hole in its structure. This was considered to be an anomaly, if you remembered those four huge holes in Switzerland, (see chapter 11 in The Pathway to Mars) or a serious structural problem if you belonged to the English Heritage school of thought. So, whether there is more than meets the eye to the arrival of the Stobe photo on this scene is for you to decide, but whatever your conclusions might be Boris Stobe can be thanked (by us anyway) for putting this sand spiral back on the planet’s cultural map after several years absence.

Here are some of the options so far available concerning the reality of this desert sculpture:

A) If the cones and wells of this sand spiral WERE made by the same phenomenon (choose your own definition) that is behind the crop glyphs11 and recognised by the authorities as not belonging to the ‘Doug & Dave School of Art’ (choose your own definition, I call them ‘Plankers’ [b] but it might not cover all the options, then the quickest containing response would have been to take those Orascom bulldozers and flatten it back into the desert. No more problemo.

B) If nothing ever really existed in the desert and the entire exercise was a computer-generated ‘art event’ then why do we have a photo from Dr Endlich/Boris Stobe arriving in the UK in 2001 but dated August 2000?

C) If nothing now exists in the desert because it has worn away – which could go some way to explain the lack of publicity by the local resort, it doesn’t explain why they can’t say so, rather than ignore my requests for updated photos. And also begs the question as to why The Spiral magazine has received an old photo pretending to be a current photo?

D) If these sand castles were made as advertised by three Greek women, together with a myriad of experts in maths, engineering, geology etc; and if they are still there, then why is there such a monumental desire to ignore the whole thing from both the sponsors, the art world and the Egyptian tourist authorities? And why so many inconsistencies within the artist’s PR material?

I had started out convinced that there was nothing there in 2001 – Option B – and was therefore fussed about the Stobe input. My research to date leads me to change that attitude and I am now pretty much convinced that the Eastern Desert of Egypt was indeed turned into mud pies thanks to Orascom and the D.A.ST. team – Option D. I say ‘pretty much’ because the inability/ unwillingness from both the artists and the sponsors to respond or even acknowledge specific questions (including [at that time] such things as a precise latitude and longitude for the spiral) indicates, to me at least, that something is wrong. I made out another list of people to call and my phone bill looked alarmed. When it saw where I was going to phone, it fainted. I’d made some connections and now it was time to see how many bells – dring! – I could ring, in more ways than one.

JUST DESERTS?

On August 10 1990, in an isolated part of south-east Oregon, USA, but under a well-patrolled Air National Guard training corridor (dring!), 13.3 miles/22km of lines, were discovered. They had been precisely carved into the compacted earth of an ancient dry lake bed (dring!) known as Mickey Basin. These furrowed lines had seemingly appeared overnight. Certainly no pilots had reported any designs in progress during the preceding days. The displaced soil lay in astonishingly even and regular lines each side of its furrow – and remember we are talking sun-baked hard pan, no grasses or scrub grew upon it. Dr. James Deardorff noted that Mickey Basin is of the same hardness as the high-speed test surface of the Bonneville salt flats of Utah. The furrows themselves were also even-sided (10ins/25.4cms wide) and of precisely equal depth (3ins/7.6cms). It also turned out that this linear arrangement a quarter mile square made a definite and recognisable pattern: a giant Sri Yantra (a Hindu mandala) had been carved into the surface of North America.

Sri Yantra

Fig 5. Diagram of the Sri Yantra.

By mid-September it had been surveyed (dring!), documented and announced in the press. Interestingly, during the surveying it was found that the outer lines were not absolutely square, deviating by as much as eight inches – yet from the air, this deviation disappeared and the image was perfect. I can’t resist adding in here the fact that I was expressly told by the Desert Breath sculptor that there were no shots of their sand spiral from directly overhead. As this was entirely unsolicited information, at the time I wondered why it had been necessary to point this out. At the time I didn’t know the details of the Sri Yantra survey.12

One claim of authorship emerged after the press reported the Mickey Basin event. It was allegedly made by 'four artists and a cultivator' (dring!) – post grads of the Doug and Dave School of Art, no doubt. Their video, filmed by the fifth member of their team, utterly failed to convince the researchers and surveyors of this earth carving, but Bill Witherspoon and his merry band certainly persuaded many members of the Idaho Air National Guard that human beings were totally responsible for this pattern – and the minimal amount of press coverage these artists received no doubt did the job of sending the rest of the population back to sleep as well. As to quite why anyone would want to slog their way through this dry lake bed for the virtually unique appreciation of the Idaho Air National Guard we have no answer (I’m still waiting for information here) [D]. But, hey, this is ringing my bell with a loud dring!: huge amounts of effort, no tangible rewards, minimal media exposure, all for ‘art’s sake’ – the same model as in Egypt some five years later.

Three years after the Egyptian event, or eight years after the Sri Yantra event, on the other side of our planet some 497/miles/800km south east of Uluru (the ‘navel’ of the Australian continent, according to the Aborigines), a seemingly similar event took place. South-east of the dry land salt lake bed (dring!) of Lake Eyrie, [now Lake Kati-Thanda] between the small town of Marree 12miles/20kms to the east and the Finnis Springs Aboriginal Reservation to the west, and lying just outside the Woomera military restricted zone (which covers a whopping 321,800 sq miles/ 200,000sq kms of South Australia State), was a plateau of red soil upon which sparsely covered scrub grasses were growing. And it was above this isolated spot, on June 28 1998, that a Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper satellite picked up and returned to Earth the extraordinary image of a literally fabulous man.

Marree Man, 1998

Fig 6a. Original article’s Landsat image of the Marree Man, 1998.

Marree Man, 2019

Fig 6b. Marree Man New image December 2019, Landsat 8.

Dubbed ‘Marree Man’ after the nearest settlement of 80 souls, [at the time it was stated that] this figure was some 2.48miles/ 4kms from top to toe. If you walked the entire outline you would cover 17miles/28kms. But – this outline was also 90ft/ 27metres wide and made up of rows of furrows (dring!). [These measurements have turned out to be remarkably inconsistent, no one source agreeing with another. [C]

Marree Man

Marree Man cu

Fig 7a&b. These images were taken after the article was written, when Google Earth Pro came online it was possible to zoom into the location. 7a (upper) is the view from 6,000ft and in 7b, the outline furrows photographed in 2018 do not follow the original in that their measurement does not agree with the stated claims for the 27 metres of these furrows.

Naturally, accusations as to who was responsible were soon flying around and over time suspects have included: an artist (dring!) the Australian Army, miners, the Aborigine population and foreign ‘military personnel’ (Woomera & Pine Gap facilities). Nobody has owned up to it, yet both in England and Australia there have been mysterious media shenanigans associated with it which echo much of the mischief associated with crop circle disinformation. Pubs near British chalk figures and local newspapers were faxed by unknown sources with cryptic messages about the connection between Marree Man and their own local carvings.

Cerne Abbas Giant

Fig 8. Cerne Abbas Giant, UK, image Peter Harlow, CC BY SA-3.0

The geoglyphs of the priapic Cerne Abbas in Dorset and the featureless Long Man of Wilmington in Sussex were both targeted. Above Cerne Abbas Giant and below, fig 9, the Long Man of Wilmington. These two images did not feature in the original published article.

The Long Man of Wilmington

Fig 9. The Long Man of Wilmington, UK, image Cupcakekid, CC BY SA-3.0

The Aborigines completely disowned this [Marree Man] figure and did not consider it as a part of their mythos, despite the best attempts of Australian anthropologists to prove otherwise. And this being so, we have to look elsewhere for the mythical origins of this figure. Given that we have had an ancient symbol from India appearing in North America, is it so astonishing that we have possibly an ancient Greek symbol turn up in South Australia? Or indeed, an ancient Egyptian symbol? Because this figure has two remarkable facets: viewed close-up [see pic] it looks like the Greek bronze statue of Zeus of Artemisium. The hairline and beard are clearly drawn. Albeit this earth carving is the reversed image, so that it is throwing with the left hand.

Fig. 1

Fig 10. Found in 1928 off Cape Artemisium, in northern Euboa, now in Athens National Museum, Image Jebulon 2015, CC BY SA-3.0. Argument centres around whether this classical period bronze statue (ca. 460 BCE) is Zeus throwing a thunderbolt this early or Poseidon holding a three-pronged spear.

Yet viewed from a distance, when those details are less distinct, the tied back hair becomes a beak and turns this figure into the Egyptian god Horus the Hawk looking over his left shoulder (see fig 11 below).

Horus the hawk

Fig 11a, left. Horus the hawk, image Jeff Dahl, CC BY SA 4.0. Fig 11b. Statue of Horus the Elder: Heshbi, CC BY SA 4.0

It is considered that Marree Man will survive for decades. [d] He was untouched by an abnormal downfall of heavy rains in an area of extremely low rainfall (dring!) – which is very appropriate given that both Zeus and Horus were associated with the weather.

Surveyors of the Marree Man thought that the physical origins of this figure would have needed bulldozers and a GPS system to be able to set this figure out on the plateau accurately – yet no one has come forward to claim this event and, most interestingly, despite the police 'following strong clues' – ‘I do assure you!’ – concerning the perpetrators of this carving, they completely called off their investigations at the exact same time that the government annexed this plateau by arbitrarily extending the boundary of the Woomera restricted zone. The fact that this was public land was apparently not an issue! By August 1998 there was also talk of banning flights over the area as well (so, no further top shots – dring!). These actions went against all the publicised claims that this figure had been made by humans to enhance tourism in South Australia (dring!). The journalists who have written about this event ask why no one should be allowed to see it or visit it. Good question, well put – but answer came there none.

Looking at all these events, I dug into my oddity bag and brought out the following nuggets. Has anyone else except me made a connection with the events around the Marree Man’s arrival – June 28 and early July – and the Roswell event of 51 years earlier? What about that number 51 in relation to the not-quite-square base of the Sri Yantra and the not-quite-square base the Great Pyramid? What about the south-eastern location of the El Gouna Spiral in relation to the Great Pyramid, and the south-eastern location of Marree Man in relation to Uluru? Now does the distant hidden image of Horus in relation to the closer overt image of the Greek god Zeus make more sense? I remembered what author James Cowan had written:

Landscape alone holds the key to understanding the un-revealed nature of The Dreaming. This is because landscape is the true nature of myth. Words are only adjuncts, as are chants and ceremonies. Therefore in order to understand, indeed, revere the earth, Aborigines maintain that we must learn to interpret landscape in a way that reveals to us its inherent power, its Angel, its djang. It is the one lesson that we must all set ourselves before it is too late.14

With all that I had discovered during this enquiry I was ready to add Option E to my list of possible Desert Breath explanations: What if, in June 1995 (and far too close to civilisation to be conveniently ignored), two logarithmic spirals made up of a series of circles were ‘furrowed’ into the compacted earth of the Eastern Egyptian desert? Having been measured and surveyed as soon as these circles were found, their presence on the earth as ‘Phase 1 of the Greek project’ is conveniently justified. Did these incised circumferences then have to wait while everyone went away to work out how to cover them up in an acceptable manner? A process which took from June 1995 through to June 1996, and which explains that discrepancy between “we started the actual construction in June 1995” and “we started the actual construction in June 1996”? Both turn out to be absolutely correct! None of the construction images that I have seen would discount this hypothesis, and the anomalies that I have encountered in my conversations with both sponsors and artists tend to support it. As D.A.ST. wrote: “In June 1995… during this visit to the site, the fundamental idea for Desert Breath was conceived in what can only be described as a moment of unanimous inspiration”. Quite!

I must emphasise that any conclusions I have drawn during these articles are not derived from wishful thinking about the nature of reality and our place in the Universe. My conclusions are arrived at because of the documentation and responses provided by the artists and their Egyptian sponsor. As the Greek artists of Desert Breath observed: “One has the lingering feeling that, years from now, or perhaps even centuries, when the work has been absorbed by its natural environment, the energy which created it will always be traced.”

Now for the final oddity in my bag: in Britain, we have been alerted to the presence of something not unlike our crop glyphs, sitting on the Eastern Desert in Egypt, by three different magazines. In the chronological order in which these ‘alerts’ occurred they were :

INTERIORS
COVER
THE SPIRAL.

Coincidence?

Just as this article was about to be uploaded onto Swirled News, an echo of the 1996 Windmill Hill triple spiral and of the 1996 Egyptian desert double spiral – for this was a six spiral – arrived in the fields of Wiltshire on 13 August. With a diameter of near to 1000ft and 409 circles, it was the biggest crop glyph to date. Was this timely arrival just another coincidence?

Milk Hill spiral, Wiltshire

Fig 12. Milk Hill spiral, Wiltshire, UK, August 2001, Steve Alexander.

The very last word: Just as this article was being uploaded to Aulis, I found an old 2014 CNN article [d] on the El Gouna double spiral which chose to make the link between this artwork and extraterrestrials. Titled: Is this an alien landing site, ancient monument, or something else? It quoted the artist Danae Stratou as saying:

The more time passes, the more it becomes fragile, but it also has developed a more organic relationship with the site. When it was just made, you could feel the connection to the shape, but now, it looks like it wasn't made by human beings at all, and this is something we like a lot.

CNN take up the point:

In fact, to many users of Google Earth the site doesn't look man made. Before knowing what it was, several commenters speculated it was anything from the imprint of an alien spaceship to the gateway to a parallel universe. A recent discussion on the Google Earth forum [e] led to the work's rediscovery, almost 17 years to the day after it was first built.

Not quite so: the ‘recent Google Earth Forum comments’ were made in 2007, seven years before the CNN article appeared! However, that CNN 2014 title has been adopted by everyone else and unsurprisingly, is all over Google search pages. Readers of Alien Intelligence and the Pathway to Mars will know about Google Earth’s Mars section and the additions made to the Face on Mars along with its derogatory comments on the notion that extraterrestrials were involved in its construction. And although one forum commentator makes it clear that there is still no mention of the El Gouna spiral at the resort itself (so no change there, then) there is seemingly the wish to use it as and when necessary to link with off-planetary matters and extraterrestrial intelligence, which is where we came in.

Mary Bennett

Aulis Online January, 2022

Continue with Marree Man: Variations on an Enigma


Original Notes

[1] Spiral magazine nos. 62 & 64 of May & July 2001. Many messages were left for the editor before publishing this Part Two, but my calls were never returned.
[2] For the full story of how this spiral was constructed with accompanying photos, try the Danae Stratou website
[3] Spiral/ground shot, courtesy of Orascom Hotel Holdings
[4] Introduction by Efi Andreadi and initially published in May 1997 edition of ARTI magazine.
[5] MACEDONIAN PRESS AGENCY NEWS IN ENGLISH Thessaloniki, November 8, 1996.
[6] Conversation with sculptor Danae Stratou, July 2001. I was also told that cement was NOT used in the rest of the cones and wells.
[7] The El Gouna website has pictures
[8] In an interview with Anna Kafesi
[9] The Cairo Times, December 24, 1998: ‘FROM SUARES TO SAWIRIS’ by Samir Raafat: “A hundred years ago the Suares trio of brothers did for the Egyptian economy what the Sawiris clan aims to do today”.
[10] These percentages are sometimes stated within the context of ‘all crop circles since always’ and sometimes ‘season of’, depending on the time of day.
[11] Author’s caveat: I am NOT referring to the D&D School of Art and their graduates when I refer to the crop glyph phenomenon.
[12] Little rainfall occurs in this part of the world – however, it was expected that rainfall would eventually destroy the Sri Yantra, and Springtime was ‘the rainy season’. None of the websites tell us what happened to this carving but I have been talking to the pilot who discovered it, so I’ll post the update on Swirled News’s feedback as soon as I get it. (No further updates were ever forthcoming.) Two good web sites for the Sri Yantra: and The Crop Circle Connector
[13] Marree Man article, The World is Full of Marree Man, Andy Thomas, SC, issue 83, Mar/Apr 1999.
To find other articles on Marree Man try here
[14] James Cowan, The Aborigine Tradition, Element Books 1992.

New Notes

Referencess for 'Desert Breath':
[a] Desert Breath: A Monumental Land Art Installation in the Sahara Desert
[1] Archived 2014-02-19 at the Wayback Machine Id.
Desert Breath: A Monumental Land Art Installation in the Sahara Desert
Desert Breath – archipedia Archived from the original on 2010-12-10. Retrieved 2010-12-11.

[b] In 1991 when 'Doug and Dave' were put forward as the answers to the unknown origin of crop glyphs I coined the word ‘plankers’ to referred to their method of flattening the crop using a plank suspended from the shoulders by a rope harness, the planker then stomped on the plank as he walked forward. While many still rely on Doug and Dave as the explanation for all crop glyphs, it was clear that their activities did not resolve any of the questions raised by the early crop glyphs. A significant feature of the original glyphs was the ability for the crop to continue its life cycle. Since 1991 many other individuals and groups have created mayhem in farmers’ fields, but none have managed to flatten the crop without killing the plants. (a variation of this planking is seen in the Desert Breath images and as with the crop glyph hoaxers, there is a mismatch between the results on the ground and the overhead shots of the location).

[c] On publishing Alien Intelligence and the Pathway to Mars, the Australian Magazine New Dawn invited me to write further on the Marree Man. Renewing my research into this geoglyph, Google Earth and subsequent reports from CNN and NASA among others, revealed that the measurements originally provided for this geoglyph did not compare with the reality on the ground. Worse: nor do the December 2019 reports from CNN
and NASA Earth Observatory even concur amongst themselves!
The New Dawn article was published in the September-October 2021 issue.

[d] Article Is this an alien landing site, ancient monument, or something else? CNN.

[e] Mystery Egyptian Desert Spiral, Google Sightseeing


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