INDIVIDUAL: Agent Aqua
GROUP SIZE: Thousands
NATURE OF GROUP: Off-road vehicle (ORV) riders
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: A Functional plain grey steel (American
grade-school-style) drinking fountain was installed in the middle
of miles of 300-foot high dunes frequented by ORV riders, or “duners”.
dunes, better known as Glamis, are an area of 118,000 + acres of BLM
land, three hours east of San Diego. The Dunes were once a bombing
range, and are now a movie backdrop, travel route for immigrants,
and a playground for duners. Summer temperatures reach 120 degrees
(f) during the day and may not go below 100 at night. The need for
a water fountain was obvious.
The fountain was solitary in the dunes for several months, during
which time is agents made regular visits to the site to check water
levels and battery status. On-board sound- activated tape recorders
noted only passing aircraft, thunderstorms, and coyotes.
Early contact with the fountain was by ORV riders who later reported
seeing the metallic reflection in the distance. They investigated,
concerned that the immobile metal object was a broken-down ORV, a
potentially lethal problem on the exposed dunes.
Subsequently the location of the fountain was noted by duners via
Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) coordinates and posted on several
Traffic to the fountain increased as more and more people heard the
rumors. Eventually the fountain became an impromptu meeting place.
is agents encountered such a gathering during a routine maintenance
visit on Easter weekend. Carrying six gallons of purified water and
a deep-cycle marine battery on their backs, they were met by dozens
of duners who asked, “Where are your bikes?” Concerned with the quality
of the water, many did not drink, but did fill their helmets for a
refreshing cool-off in the 100 degree + heat.
Subsequent visitors to the dunes frequently rode to the fountain to
meet up and shoot group photos, which were then posted on the internet.
Many personalized the fountain with graffiti or left notes stating
the dates and times of their visit. Visitors to Glamis, Thanksgiving,
1997 were estimated at more than 34,000.
of is agents went regularly to the fountain over a two-year period.
Despite months of testing regarding the extent of shifting sand levels,
is agents arrived at the fountain site on one such trip and were unable
to locate the structure. After some months an is agent noticed a glint
of the hooded bubbler - the only part of the fountain that remained
above sand level. The fountain was then excavated to its former level
and immediately restored to service.
After two years, is agents removed the fountain and all other evidence
of the structure.