We’re not, I have to say, protestors. We love trees and have been working hard over the last 2 years to raise awareness of the world's big trees but we're quite moderate in our approach. However, though our love of forests and our work promoting significant trees we felt personally compelled to visit the camp, if only to lend our skills to the campaign and make a contribution to saving this forest.
While we were there, we did have a few goals in mind. The Tree Projects, the organisation that we run, is all about communicating the true scale of trees and promoting canopy exploration. We have been wanting to test out our new drone for weeks now. We wanted to document a Myrtle with the aim of testing out our gear but also to give the resulting image to the BBF to use as a campaign tool. We also wanted to test out a new portaledge for sleeping in the trees. This was a particularly exciting prospect as we had never slept in a tree before.
Thanks to Erik who found the Myrtle, we didn’t really have to do any searching. Erik found a magnificent individual just 250m from the road and yes inside the logging coup. Getting our equipment to the tree, even though it was only 250m, took an extraordinary effort. 45 minutes of tumbling, falling and plunging our way through the incredibly thick understory was a trying experience especially with our delicate equipment. As if from a Hollywood film we struggled towards an invisible GPS point thought this tangle 200m to go, then 100m…. 50m….. 25m…. and at 15m we still couldn’t see the tree. Then it was revealed: a very tall Myrtle in its absolute prime situated at the very edge of a lush gully and glowing in the morning sun.
We quickly set about surveying the surrounding forest checking for its suitability. Our style of image building requires a gap in the canopy big enough to fly the drone. Success! We couldn’t have hoped for a more perfect situation for our subject to be in. We setup the equipment with much excitement and anticipation and within 3 hours we had recorded all we needed. There were a few exciting moments when strong gusts of wind pushed our drone dangerously close to a nearby tree. Also, we had frustrating issues with clouds blocking and revealing the sun at quite inopportune times, resulting in having to hover the drone in position waiting for the light to return, wasting many precious minutes of battery life. All we could do now is hope that once we got the images back to the computer we had all the pieces of this giant puzzle.
With this task complete and our batteries empty we struggled once again back to the road and back to camp ready for a strong cup of tea before our next goal of setting up the portaledge. We have been climbing into the trees for 4 years now, but never had slept in one. This was until we were contacted by John Middendorf at Big Wall Gear who offered us the use of one of his new designs. A portaledge is basically a tent for rock climbers who have to spend more than one day climbing and need to sleep overnight on the wall.
For our purposes, it seemed perfect a quick and easy setup in the canopy and a comfortable place to sleep. It was an extraordinary opportunity for us and although the wind was blowing a strong easterly, flexing the tree and branches, we couldn’t pass it up. I won’t lie, it was a rough night as are most new experiences. The wind did not let up all night and a few gusts really did throw around the platform and more scarily, push the tree around which is quite the experience when trying to sleep. But, as if to contrast this the sunrise, the following day made it all worthwhile.
Dawn over the top of the forest brought a chorus of birdsong with green rosellas, superb wrens and strong billed honeyeaters all staring in the show on this brisk pre dawn. In just a few seconds the sun rose over the distant horizon and the steel blue hues were transformed into a burning orange. The tree that had held me all night now blazed with warmth as did the entire canopy landscape of the proposed logging coup. I’ve always thought that the hardest experiences result in the greatest experiences and on this occasion that was very true.
As our third morning dawned then progressed it was apparent that our time was up, again.
Steve & Jen