New Mexico’s Unique Lightning Field

lightning strike in the sky behind clouds at night

Lightning is terrible to experience but beautiful to view. The light show it sets up is breathtaking and if you’re watching from a safe distance, and it can be an unforgettable experience. Since lightning is a form of energy, many people have tried to harness its power.

The common belief is if you harness the power and channel it in some other manner, you can produce wonders. To accomplish this, New Mexico has a dedicated art piece known as the Lightning Field which is an extremely unique, man-made project.

The Lightning Field

Installed in 1977, the Lightning Field is a minimalist, earth art piece commissioned by the Dia Foundation and installed by Walter De Maria. The field contains a grid, made out of 400 stainless steel poles and function like lightning rods. The poles are set at a distance of 220 feet from each other and the complete grid is spread across a measurement of 1 mile x 1 kilometer.

To keep the poles at an even height, they are made from varying lengths to accommodate the undulating landscape. As a result, some poles are only 15 feet tall whereas the tallest ones are 26 feet and 9 inches tall. The rods are also designed to withstand wind speeds of 180km an hour. They are also housed with a concrete footing to improve their stability and endurance.

Functioning as lightning rods, the installation receives around 60 lightning bolts per year but they can cause a lot of damage to the place. Repair and maintenance of the Lightning Field are being conducted by the Dia Foundation.

Walter De Maria and New Mexico

For Walter De Maria, setting up the Lightning Field was a labor of love, and a lot of patience. With the help of his assistants, Helen Winkler and Robert Fosdick, De Maria scoured different sites in Utah, Arizona, California, Texas and Nevada. They traveled by truck and the search took them around 5 years before they found the site in New Mexico.

The location was chosen because it is a high desert and is elevated at 7,200 feet above sea level. The grid was erected in the middle of the plateau. The isolation and wildness of the place appealed to De Maria as the perfect setup for Mother Nature’s greatest light show.

Visiting the Field

The Lightning Field is open for visitors for only 6 months but getting there is a challenge. The place only has accommodations for 6 people who can live on site in a hut. Advance reservations are needed and interested people have to meet at a scheduled place in Quemado, New Mexico. They’re then driven to the log cabin on site which can take 2 to 3 hours.

The Lightning Field is meant to be viewed in isolation so the hut does lack many modern amenities. Staying overnight is also allowed but only for one night. Additionally, you cannot bring your pets nor are you allowed to go camping on the land. Despite the isolation, many people have said the experience was worth it. Its popularity also makes getting a slot to visit the Lightning Field difficult. In fact, it is fully booked for 2018.

As a unique landmark, this art piece is definitely worth visiting so go make a booking today!

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