It’s a beautiful site – but I never understood what the hell it was. When I asked my server at Nob Hill Grille, she said, “A tourist trap.”
Fair enough – I can see how people would say that – it was one of San Francisco’s original seven hills and its purpose now is to shelter feral parrots (seriously).
I knew there had to be a story though, something to make me appreciate its existence for a reason other than its beauty. When I asked the guide at Alcatraz, he let me in on the deal:
Observers in the tower would watch the boats coming into the bay towards Fisherman’s Wharf, and raise flags in a configuration that corresponded to the type of ship approaching. By knowing which ships were entering port, observers could gain a significant advantage: If they could predict the cargo that was about come into port, merchants and buyers alike could anticipate the upcoming price shift.
For example, a person without the advance information on the cargo might overpay for a good that is about to drop in price (due to an incoming shipment of the same good).
Such as Wikipedia, which brings me to another general observation: I was told my entire life (within the educational system) that Wikipedia is unreliable, but I’ve got to be honest: It seems to be pretty spot on for most general information, especially in this case, as well as in my experience over the past few years.
Not that I recommend that sort of introverted approach – it’s better to get the story from a local’s mouth – just saying – I use it a lot to get the quick jist of things, and it has never gotten me in trouble or led me astray.