Snapping a tall tree
Posted on 11 January 2013, 23:10
I was a bit late to this story, but just before Christmas, National Geographic announced that one of the world’s tallest trees, the 247 foot ‘President’, a giant sequoia in Prairie Creek, California, has had its picture taken. It’s a composite picture actually, stitched together from 126 separate shots.
I only mention it because I’d like to recommend one of the best books I’ve read recently called The Wild Trees, by Richard Preston. It’s about one of the last unexplored places on earth – the forest canopy – and tells the often hair-raising story of how the huge trees of northern California were first climbed in the 1960s and 70s.
The story is poetic, quixotic and often dramatic, with people climbing and then falling out of trees and trees themselves being felled by high winds. Since reading it, the book’s stayed with me and I still think about it.
Biologists were slow to realise that to study the canopy they would need climbing skills. According to one early climbing scientist: ‘People said, “What do you mean, you’re going up into the trees? There’s nothing up there. That’s just Tarzan and Jane stuff.” She believed that she was on to something. “I felt like, Wow, here’s this new place nobody’s been to.”’
I grew up climbing trees myself, so the book had extra appeal for me, but I recommend it for anyone who enjoys an unexpected and well-told story and wants to know more about one of the world’s last frontiers.