Destination: Lassen Bank, a remote section of the Galapagos Islands that attracts about four dozen charter boat guests per day. Because no artificial reefs, no deep water to anchor to, and no direct running trade can sustain lighthouses there, the only places to be are exposed. Damage to lighthouses, which are pegs of stone near the water’s surface and form important landmarks for tourists, can threaten visitors, or the local environment.
Recently, howls are heard from the Galapagos — and in nearby San Cristobal on the mainland — when a Canadian tourist puts some leather mittens onto his feet (for what reason still is unclear). The metal pegs, as lighthouses are called, do not have any metal parts (so they are known as wax metallurgical structures), and have been repeatedly chip-dried and buffed by the strong sea air. The bumpy texture of hard-bitten leather is understandably unacceptable.
Two months ago, one visitor went too far — almost literally — when he ripped out his grandfather’s sandwich loaf on one leg of his first-class LPG Airlines flight to the islands from San Cristobal. The “artisanal cheese from medieval times” and various other trinkets have long made their mark on the coffee cups and souvenir trinkets floating in the waters nearby.
Thanks to that egghead from Paris, Grandpa Dortch, it is now banned for anyone with a Genserie tag. The guy also used the leather to remove a $700 vacuum seal, replaced by plastic, the other day. Later, the same passenger using the replaceable plastic filler flicked a bait-shaped needle under his chair leg with a cigar he couldn’t find; he lost something, he lost his bag.
It is a perfect metaphor for lighthouses, which are susceptible to wandering hands that have nothing to do with the lighthouse users and everything to do with the tourists. No wonder the Galapagos has a litttle twinge of foreign irritation, another word for “fishy.”
Enjoy your local brand of lighthouse.