The ‘Thomsons from Sunderland’

Stupidity is something immovable; you can’t try to attack it without being broken by it … In Alexandria [Egypt], a certain Thompson from Sunderland has inscribed his name in letters six feet high on Pompey’s Pillar. You can read it from a quarter of a mile away. You can’t see the Pillar without seeing the name of Thompson, and consequently without thinking of Thompson. This cretin has become part of the monument and perpetuates himself along with it. What am I saying? He overwhelms it by the splendor of his gigantic lettering … All imbeciles are more or less Thompsons from Sunderland. How many one comes across in life in the most beautiful places and in front of the finest views.

Gustave Flaubert, quoted in The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton

I came across my own version of Flaubert’s “Thompson from Sunderland.” These particular imbeciles—Flaubert’s pejorative feels entirely appropriate—were not scrawling names in big bold letters across some archeological treasure. It was a different sort of debasement, inflicted on a different sort of treasure, no less precious.

Laomei Green Reef is located on the north coast of Taiwan, east of the Fugui Cape.

Fugui Lighthouse

Every year, beginning in April, Laomei Green Reef attracts throngs of camera-wielding humans.

Laomei Green Reef seen at a distance from a nearby hill.

Limestone-producing algae grows over a shelf of volcanic rock. The limestone remains after the organism dies. Successive layers of limestone build up forming the reef.

Laomei Green Reef close up

Water erosion carves meandering channels in the reef. How to describe it? Said to Dahlia, “It looks like a shaky hand ran a giant comb through the rock when it was cooling.” Well, I took a stab at it, anyway.

Laomei Green Reef, pattern of erosion

Along the reef water shoots up through fissures in the reef. Note the fishermen standing on the reef in the background.

Laomei Green Reef, water shoots up through a fissure.

Note the clearly marked sign by the entrance.

Laomei Green Reef, clear signage posted. Stay off the reef.

Note this asshole standing on the reef.

Laomei Green Reef, asshole standing on the reef.

So anxious to capture the beauty of Laomei, all the while trampling it beneath their feet.

Laomei Green Reef, assholes standing on the reef.

We saw a lot of that.

Laomei Green Reef, yet more assholes standing on the reef.

It make us angry. Dahlia had finally had enough. She confronted a man walking across the reef. “Don’t you know you ruining it?” He should have known better.

Laomei Green Reef, another asshole standing on the reef.

This is what reef looked like closer to the parking lot, well-within range of the selfie-obsessed hordes.

Laomei Green Reef, damage done?

If you walked to the other end of the reef, away from the morons standing on it, this is what Laomei Green Reef looks like. Note: It is possible to take a decent photo standing a safe distance away away from the reef (evidence below).

Laomei Green Reef, close up of water shooting up through a fissure.