back to article To preserve Earth's treasures, digital silence is golden

Social media has made it easy to create large communities and to communicate with them instantly. The downside is that when those communities cross over into the real world, crowds of people can cause real harm regardless of their intent. I recently returned home from holidays on the Island of Hawai'i, where I had the …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    a black sand beach

    That is something I would like to see.

    1. Lon24

      Re: a black sand beach

      Only a fast EasyJet excursion to Santa Cruz de la Palma in the Canary Islands. Best avoid the volcano season though - hence the icon!

      Here's a piccy:

    2. John Sager

      Re: a black sand beach

      Lanzarote, and for good measure it has green olivine stones as well. Don't all rush over there!

    3. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: a black sand beach

      In addition to the suggestions made, Iceland. Any beach there.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: a black sand beach

        Have a look at:

        I have been to some of the places, just be careful, the sea is very cold, and deep and has strong currents.

    4. Spoobistle

      Re: a black sand beach

      New Zealand has some black sand beaches west of Auckland e.g. Muriwai. The sand there is also magnetic!

    5. Mint Sauce

      Re: a black sand beach

      Vulcano, near Sicily.

      Ooh, that looks interesting, I'll take a walk. 30 seconds later I'm hop-skipping across the sand like some kind of lizard, heading for the cooling refuge of some concrete that was merely blisteringly hot ;-)

      I suggest you wear something on your feet if you visit such a beach in the summer !

      (icon for the temperature)

    6. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: a black sand beach

      Try Coral Beach near Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: a black sand beach

        Some amazing blisteringly white beaches round there. Went snow blind on one reading a book! Though it could have been whisky poisoning...

    7. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: a black sand beach

      Black sand occurs elsewhere as well (although not always totally black). E.g. the shell sand on some of Scotland's offshre islands can be about 50% black. The Hawaiian black sand is probably volcanic though.

    8. parlei Bronze badge

      Re: a black sand beach

      We have them on the local lake. A lot of the local rock i slate, so the sand matches in colour.

      1. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

        Re: a black sand beach

        Don't be nasty to the local rocks.

    9. SundogUK Silver badge

      Re: a black sand beach

      The island of Santorini in Greece has one as well.

    10. Stork Silver badge

      Re: a black sand beach

      São Miguel in the Azores have them - I have a nice photo of someone’s bright yellow shoes left on the sand.

    11. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: a black sand beach

      There's almost always a gentle breeze on the islands but there are certain places you don't want to be if it stops on a sunny day. Black sand or dry rusty dirt - you'll be cooked if it takes you longer than a few minutes to escape. It's an insulator that heats up quickly.

    12. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: a black sand beach

      Very impressive - however you might not want to walk on it on a sunny day. There's a cracker in NZ which is also a good surf beach and you can have a laugh at people doing impressions of Dudley Moor in 10.

  2. TSM

    Alternative truth being rediscovered: Humans are awful.

    As a corollary, if we can find a spot without many of them, we should keep it that way so we can enjoy it.

    1. Commswonk

      As Jean-Paul Sartre put it...

      Hell is other people.

      1. oiseau

        Re: As Jean-Paul Sartre put it...

        Hell is other people.

        Indeed ...



        I cook from age 15, like to eat and am always on the look-out for places where I could eat good honest * food.

        I used to share my finds and recommended them among friends and acquaintances.

        But I stopped doing it many years ago, well before the likes of Twitter existed.


        Prices rose, food stopped being honest and you were then required to make a reservation.

        Not just my doing, of course: it is the eons old word-of-mouth process. (look up gossip)

        Social networks have only sped it up: we now have its speed-of-light digital equivalent, which can be both fatal and life saving and like many other things digital, depending on the purpose.


        * Those among us commentards who cook know what I am talking about.

        tl;dr: no BS, just good food, good service and reasonable prices.

        1. Mike 137 Silver badge

          Re: As Jean-Paul Sartre put it...

          The same issue has arisen with B&B. I used to travel extensively around the UK and it was once possible to turn up in a small town and find a B&B for the night. On many occasions, if the first one found was full, they'd recommend another nearby. But since AirB&B you have to book in advance online every time. Gone is the freedom to roam. And let's not forget that Everest is littered with toilet paper.

          The fundamental problem is that convenient access has reduced the need for a significant reason to visit places. Where once one had to be determined and therefore in principle really interested in a destination, it's now possible to just turn up without any such real interest and merely gawp at it. So the numbers rise, and the places get swamped and cease to be worth visiting, as was foreseen by John Buchan in his 1940 autobiography Memory Hold-the-door.

          1. Clunking Fist

            Re: As Jean-Paul Sartre put it...

            What you are saying is that we are all too rich and have too much leisure time. King Charles and the World Economic Forum agree with you and are working hard to fix this.

          2. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: As Jean-Paul Sartre put it...

            I spent a lot of time in the Caribbean and its turned into a sort of US clone holiday resort most places now. Cant find a decent goat water soup anywhere!

    2. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

      Agent Smith was correct about humans.

    3. John Sager

      Too many humans are awful, because statistically it includes idiots who don't know better and sociopaths who do but delight in buggering it up for everyone else.

      Near where I live there is a lovely spring, impossible to get to in the summer because of the nettles & other vegetation but a sight to behold in winter. Some 'well-meaning' person put markers around so we removed them. Selfish? If too many idiots went too close they would collapse the sides of the spring pool and that would be that.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        > because statistically it includes idiots

        Not necessary: It's the sheer quantity which creates the problem. Imagine a pretty tropical beach, a dozen people, all is fine. Same beach, 2000 people, it's hell on earth. Throw one used paper towel into the countryside, it will disintegrate well before anyone spots it, throw 2000 paper towels and you've got a dump.

        Which actually means that true beauty needs to be reserved for a select privileged few, because else it simply ceases to be beautiful. Sad, isn't it...

        1. Mike 137 Silver badge

          "Which actually means that true beauty needs to be reserved for a select privileged few,"

          Ah -- sanctuaries. But they're only acceptable if one is included in the said elite.

          Maybe a more effective and acceptable alternative is better education for all, so folks become aware of their impact and actively seek to minimise it. Then the numbers might not be such a problem. Intent to harm the environment is extremely rare. The common problems are lack of awareness and negligence, both of which can be amended by appropriate education. But the tourism issue is the peak of an "iceberg". If we don't as entire communities start minimising our impact on the environment we'll be a short lived species.

          1. fidodogbreath

            Maybe a more effective and acceptable alternative is better education for all, so folks become aware of their impact and actively seek to minimise it.

            That doesn't work on the assholes or sociopaths / griefers who are the biggest part of the problem. Quite the opposite: it gives them a checklist of obnoxious and destructive ways to be assholes, some of which they might not have thought of.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          "Throw one used paper towel into the countryside, it will disintegrate well before anyone spots it, throw 2000 paper towels and you've got a dump."

          The problem is thousands and thousands that will also drop mylar candy bar wrappers, bits of food that attracts birds and supports their breeding far too many more birds.

          I was at the market yesterday and an employee was collecting the trolleys in the parking lot and I noticed her tossing out bits of paper and other debris before ramming them together to push them into the store. It's bad enough that people had left rubbish in the trolley, but for a store employee to just toss it out in the parking lot to be blown away was inexcusable.

          Litter is a big problem, but so is people that will go off the trails, add graffiti and leave marks on trees and other plants. The local hills would be a nice retreat and a place to make some nice photos but the local "youths" have pretty much trashed anywhere easy to access.

        3. veti Silver badge

          Not necessarily. There are a great many "truly beautiful" spots on earth. It's quite possible that basically everyone (who has enough leisure and income for it to be relevant to them) has at least one such spot within a couple of hours' travel.

          If everyone just sticks to their local beauty spots, all will be fine. It's fame (virality) that does for them.

          1. Tom 7 Silver badge

            NZ restricts access to many places and the best walks are ticket only and they dont seem to have the urge to throw rubbish and shit randomly there either.

        4. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Went to a place in Greece that was only accessible by boat and once of the beach it looked like someone had blown up a sewage works.

    4. Clunking Fist

      "if we can find a spot without many of them, we should keep it that way so we can enjoy it."

      King Charles, 'that you?

  3. PK

    Predicted in 1973?

    Sounds like Flash Crowd by Larry Niven, but with the internet instead of teleporters

    1. Paul Kinsler

      Re: Predicted in 1973?

      Hmm. Bester's "The stars my destination" also springs to my mind, because it has jaunting, but maybe there weren't jaunt-mobs in it after all. Perhaps I should check...

      1. PK
        Thumb Up

        Re: Predicted in 1973?

        Thanks, I now have another book on my ever expanding to-try-and-read-at-some-point list

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Predicted in 1973?

          Well, in that case, why not "As the Crow Flies", by George Wallace, as well. Not SF, but often described as a classic.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Predicted in 1973?

            In a similar vein is Gary Kilworth's "Let's Go to Golgotha", published in 1975, in which the protagonist goes on a time-travelling holiday back to Jerusalem to witness the crowd choosing Barabbas over Jesus. To his horror he realises that the entire crowd consists of time-travelling tourists.

  4. tiggity Silver badge

    Maybe read this

    Flash Crowd - Larry Niven

    In this SF, with mass teleportation available, some tourist "hotspots" e.g. Easter Island, keep themselves quiet by not being on the teleportation network

    As title suggests, all about big crowds gathering at random places

  5. Fr. Ted Crilly Bronze badge

    Yeah it's a bummer when it happens

    'The Blue Hole' (disused slate mine above Fairbourne in Gwynedd, North Wales) definitely a minor those who know - know. Goes on the BBC telly instant swamping of people struggling up the steep and somewhat dodgy path resulting in the usual assortment of injuries, also people jumping off the vertical sides into the flooded workings and um getting it a bit wrong :-| .

    Now it's closed off, a wonderful silent oasis denied us mildly responsible people.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Yeah it's a bummer when it happens

      Its not just getting it a bit wrong - even entering the water safely can result in thermal shock as the water is bloody cold all year round there. I was in Lake Garda a while back and the water by the shore was 20C or more but the following week a bloke dived off a boat and and wasnt seen again for a couple of days.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Yeah it's a bummer when it happens

      Remember the blue hole from the mid 1970's along with the Penryn quarries - riding in the buckets on the aerial ropeway...

      There is also the related problem, "we had to destroy xyz in order to preserve it", ie. people wanting visitors.

      Take a location in the Geek's Guide, the Lizard Wireless Station at Bass Point. I visited the site back in 1999 (solar eclipse) and revisited in 2017.

      In 1999, it was just some concrete footings in a cow field, with preservation, the cows have gone and been replaced by a car park and visitor centre and maintained grass.

      Seen similar with Bletchley Park, its a great museum and day out, and will now be preserved, but compared to visiting in the mid 1990's...

  6. Pirate Dave Silver badge


    Better to keep schtum about the good stuff, and not go plastering it all over the Internets as if it's pictures of what you ate for lunch. Things get passed-on, and before you know it, your "secret" find has blazed its way across Facebook. The wife and I agreed we would not post anything related to our favorite vacation spots on social media - no restaurant shout-outs, no "oh, look at our lovely hotel", and most certainly no "this twisty, curvy country road has no traffic on it and will save you 20 minutes going from (point A) to (point B)". Those are all just glory-seeking types of posts anyway, trying to impress some small circle of "friends" and make the poster look important. Which, yeah, that's exactly the never-spoken-aloud entire point of Facebook, innit?

    Judging from her social media (I'm no longer "social"), we're the most boring, stay-at-home people alive. Which is just how we like it.

  7. goodjudge

    Social media killed that wise old saying "just because you can, it doesn't mean you should".

  8. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Hawaii you say

    If I'm ever there I'll be sure to bear this article in mind and seek it out.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Hawaii you say

      It did occur to me that telling us where it is is rather against the spirit of the ranger's request.

      Perhaps there will be more places like Macchu Pichu which strictly limits the number of visits, and doesn't even allow replacement visitors (so someone else can't go in your place).

      1. Mark 85

        Re: Hawaii you say

        It did occur to me that telling us where it is is rather against the spirit of the ranger's request.

        I wondered the same thing. The genie has been released if only in words. Might have best just to say someth8ing "I know a place...." without telling where it is or it's name.

        1. Claverhouse Silver badge

          Re: Hawaii you say

          Just saying 'Somewhere in the Pacific' would be all the clue proffered to the determined.

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Hawaii you say

        They do that in NZ but its only a few places that are sufficiently remote to prevent interlopers getting there.

  9. Mike 16

    Nobody goes there any more,

    It's too crowded.

    - Yogi Berra (allegedly)

    Although he also (allegedly) said "I really didn't say everything I said"

  10. Anonymous Coward

    The Beach IRL

    The beach (Maya Bay) where DiCaprio filmed The Beach was destroyed by the influx of tourists. It was closed for three years and the Thai Supreme Court has now ordered repair work to be done.

  11. SundogUK Silver badge

    So it's OK for you to visit but they need to keep the peasants out?

  12. Andy the ex-Brit

    More examples

    Reminds me of a couple of places ruined by people (Instagrammers) trying to recreate iconic photographs.

    (1) The lone tree in a lake, eventually had a branch snapped off for the sake of a photo, then vandalized with a saw.

    (2) Lavender fields in France, repeatedly trampled without permission for wedding photos.

  13. Marty McFly Silver badge

    Online STFU is needed to preserve treasures

    There is a 1920's abandoned railroad tunnel in the woods near where I live. In the early 2000's only a few of us locals knew about it & could find it. It is partially collapsed, very dangerous, and hasn't been touched since the 1940's. Cool, right?

    And that is the problem. Now with GPS & widespread sharing the tunnel location is readily discoverable. To the point of a functional path exists to the portals. It is on the National Register of Historic places with the address unpublished. It is also on BLM land and they don't want anything to do with it (the other BLM - Bureau of Land Management).

    Eventually someone will get hurt & here comes the lawsuit. That will force 'something' to be done. Which is likely a few sticks of dynamite to blow the ends closed. Sad, as this has survived for decades known only to the locals, and now the onset of social media & GPS will ruin it for everyone.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Online STFU is needed to preserve treasures

      Given the filters being put in place for undesirable content, it should be possible to use this infrastructure to identify and remove content concerning locations that wish to remain "off-the-net".

  14. The Kraken

    Similar problems here, close to home.

    There are some locations close to my city which - as a result of Twitter / Facebook are inundated so badly - that the police routinely close access on weekends to all but non-residents - you have to show proof to be let in. And no I'm not saying where they are.

  15. Auntie Dix

    The Author Is Part of the Problem

    "At the top of the trail the ranger on duty gave my traveling party three instructions: be careful on the descent; stay well away from the ritually forbidden kapu areas at the bottom; and finally, don't share any of our photos of this idyllic spot on the internet."

    So, realizing obnoxious tourists' impact, did Dork then leave?

    No, he continued onward, with self-importance and contradiction.

    May the spirit of Bobby Brady's Tiki idol give the author unrelenting crotch rot.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like