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Decades-Old Mystery Put To Rest: Why Are There X's In The Desert?

Pez Owen was flying over the desert in her single-engine Cessna airplane when she spotted a huge "X" etched in the desert below. She says it was the strangest thing. "It's not on the [flight] chart," Owen says. "There just wasn't any indication of this huge cross." Then she spotted another one. ( More...

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Very interesting...THANK YOU for sharing..
zennermd 7
Pretty cool story.
waldo kitty 4
they should go find the airmail route markers and do a story on them, too...
waldo kitty 3
FWIW: here's a few links to these very similar markers...
Jim DeTour 4
The old days when boxcar cargo planes would snag the film payloads dropped by the satellites.
You will see x's or v's painted or made of sheet rock or fabric on streets, in fields, parking lots and such. These are often aerial survey control points. These control points are used to orientate imagery used in high accuracy mapping for engineering.
209flyboy 3
That's where the treasure is buried
joel wiley 2
All 273 of them? If not which one(s)?
waldo kitty 1
where did you get 273? my understanding is that the grid is 16x16 which is 256...

FWIW: i've found and marked 135 of them in my Google Earth installation... i started my grid in the north west with each row being letters and each column being numbers... of the A row, which is beside the Gila Bend Hwy, i found only one remaining marker (A3)... none at all of the B row... farmland and the population area of Casa Grande took out most of those rows... Arizona City took out a large section of G8 through L16 in that particular grid box... plus there's a canal or two that took out several when it was put in...

i still go back and look for more of these markers from time to time... unfortunately the google earth imagery only goes back to 1 May 1996 so any that were still there before then are just not available in the imagery to be marked... they are all on 1 mile placements, though... that's easy enough to see... the real trick is to figure out which corner of the intersection they are on...
joel wiley 2
273 came from the text of the story.
Did you find documentation that the grid was 16x16? Maybe the grid was extended to allow for points that fell on sites that would be infelicitous for large 'X' placement.

It sounds like an ongoing project of yours. I was wondering how you determined the NW origin (A1).
waldo kitty 1
ahh! i found it... atlas obscura is where i saw it noted as 16x16 but you made me go hunting again and i did find the 17th column one mile further east and another row one mile further north so i had to renumber everything but i do have a KMZ file from google earth if anyone is interested in it... i've found 144 markers, i think... the rest are just not visible at this time... either (re)moved or covered by sand...
waldo kitty 1
well, how about that... you are right! i just went back and read it again... i have spent the last half hour trying to find, again, the references i used that told me the grid was 16 x 16... it is apparently 17 x 17 which means i have another row and column to try to find...

as for determining the NW origin, once i found one of the Maltese Xes, i kept going west until i found no more... then i went north until i found no more... eventually the NW corner basically showed itself to me...

but i'm also wondering if maybe i have actually found the NW corner but it is not an X... slightly offset of where the X would be, is two long pads like a vertical equals sign but a bit larger... i'd love to find the map that they used in the article to determine what and where the markers were...

i just started the project after reading the article and others related to it... it is funny, in a way, because i was out that way back in the '80s and could have actually walked to them at that time... i did a lot of hiking back in those days ;)
lynx318 1
Captain Jack Sparrow will be VERY busy digging up those chests!;)
skittel 2
anyone else.imagine this story being read by Paul Harvey? and you know..the rest of the story...Im paul Harvey...good day?
ToddBaldwin3 2
That was a very cool story.
There's a clearly visible road leading to that one pictured. I wonder why they chose to hike cross country (to a different one, I presume)?
Nancy Waller 2
That is very interesting and informative story. Thanks for posting it.
I initially thought it was either for target practice for bombing, (inert?) or maybe training jumps for paratroopers. then i wondered if it was some type of guidance/spotting aid.

guess it was more towards the latter.
Joe Smith 1
There is also a grid of 8' round concrete pads with the benchmark in the middle in the Henry County, Ohio, area. Used for satellite camera calibration. Most are now covered up or destroyed.
Ray Toews 1
In the early 80s flying around Northern Alberta I saw them. A friend helicopter pilot told me they were calibration points for the GPS system just coming into use. I think they were made of fabric. I don't see them anymore.
garritt 1
great story....thank you,g~
alfe2000 1
Zahidul Hasan 1
This are Corona Satellite Calibration Targets. The Corona satellites were used for photographic surveillance of the Soviet Union (USSR), the People's Republic of China, and other areas beginning in June 1959 and ending in May 1972. The name of this program is sometimes seen as "CORONA", but its actual name "Corona" was a codeword, not an acronym.
cdinvb 1
Check out the Gambit and Hexagon satellites at the USAF Museum in Dayton, Ohio. Gives a sense of scale of these things.
lynx318 1
The engineer corps I doubt would need these anymore and probably many have disappeared already, they should remove one of the brass plates and make a memorial piece for Pez as a keepsake in memory of her father.
Great stuff, thanks for the article.
joel wiley 1
The penalty is for removing the benchmark, which was placed in 1986. Much later than the 1972 declassified filmstrip. Interesting anyway.
Andy Robinson 7
If you look closely the stamp is 1966 - it's a '6' and not an '8'!
Kevin Haiduk 3
Yep - took me a sec on that also!
joel wiley 3
Thanks. My eyes aren't what they were, and the never were so good.


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