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text Workers and watchers alike mob the obelisk minutes after it stood up for the first time.
Obelisk Raised!
Part 2 | Back to Part 1

Well, to make a long story short, Mr. Murphy wasn't there. In fact, if there's an anti-Murphy's law, it was in full force yesterday, beginning with the crystal-clear weather that belied the torrential downpours we'd had the day before. If the turning-groove operation went swimmingly, this one went baby-pool swimmingly.

After three or four tests, allowing them to get a feel for the ropes, the pullers brought the obelisk upright on the first try in less than two minutes. At precisely 3:12 p.m., after three attempts over a period of five years, NOVA had its standing obelisk, very likely the first raised since Egyptian times using a sandpit and ropes. ("Vindicated" is all Roger Hopkins, who had long advocated a version of this method, had to say before treating me to one of his Cheshire-cat grins.)

As if in payback for all the effort of both Brown's team and the folks at Fletcher Granite, who had worked overtime to acquire and manhandle the obelisk, build the ramp, and otherwise make this project happen, the obelisk assumed a whole new presence once it reached the vertical. I found it astonishing what just a few degrees made in how I felt about it. Before it was just a rock at an angle. Now it was an obelisk. It had taken on life and stood proudly showing it off to the dozens of participants and spectators who quickly crowded around it, palming its roughened surface, peering into the now-vacated turning groove, running their eyes up its perfectly straight sides.

The obelisk The NOVA obelisk shortly after its raising.

"Totally anticlimactic!" said a beaming Michael Barnes, the NOVA film's executive producer, as he gave Cort a congratulatory hug. Drawing me out of my reverie, his words drove home the complete failure of my mission - and the utter success of Rick Brown's operation. I doubt I could bring the edge of Mullen's hypothetical camp bottle down onto a table any smoother than they had. There was neither sound nor vibration nor any other indication whatsoever when it touched down onto the pedestal stone.

"I kept saying it would go at that point," Mark Lehner told me late in the day, referring to that critical angle when one might have expected the obelisk to start picking up speed. "But it never did, because of the utter control they had over the ropes."

Then, off the cuff, he summed up the entire operation in one of those quotable lines he's noted for:

"Sacrificing drama of the moment for a dramatic result that might last thousands of years."

Hear, hear. As we admired the obelisk backlighted by the early-evening sun, I felt certain that after three attempts, we had finally done the ancients proud.

Peter Tyson is Online Producer of NOVA.

Obelisk Raised! (September 12)
In the Groove (September 1)
The Third Attempt (August 27)
Angle of Repose (March 25)
A Tale of Two Obelisks (March 24)
Rising Toward the Sun (March 23)
Into Position (March 22)
On an Anthill in Aswan (March 21)
Ready to Go (March 20)
Gifts of the River (March 19)
By Camel to a Lost Obelisk (March 18)
The Unfinished Obelisk (March 16)
Pulling Together (March 14)
Balloon Flight Over Ancient Thebes (March 12)
The Queen Who Would Be King (March 10)
Rock of Ages (March 8)
The Solar Barque (March 6)
Coughing Up an Obelisk (March 4)

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