Monday, September 04, 2017

When trees were huge

One hundred years ago, Vancouver Island was covered shore to shore, high-tide line to high-tide line, with forest. The trees were huge; 30 feet around or more, 6 feet across. An old family photograph, now lost, showed my aunt, about 5'5" tall, standing in front of a downed trunk; it loomed over her, at least a foot wider than she was tall.

The weekly mail plane, Vancouver Island west coast, 1950s. One small settlement (Hungerford's place, I think, now gone). Forests still go to the high tide line. My father's photo.

Not so today; a Google Earth fly-over reveals huge logged-off patches, a network of logging roads, the brighter green of opportunist deciduous trees, and remains of old logging operations. Most of the forests now are second- or third-growth trees. Logging trucks carry bundles of skinny poles, matchsticks compared to the old logs, some of which were, singly, a full load for a big truck.

Log on truck trailer, 1944. Vancouver Archives collection.

Zeballos, a logging town on the west coast. 1940s. A few bare patches are visible on the left. When I knew it, in the 1950s, a large area of hillside had been logged off along the surrounding coast.

GoogleEarth view, mid-island. Darkest green shows unlogged areas.

Loggers were at work here since ancient times; the native peoples cut trees for houses, heating, canoes, and tools. The invading Europeans brought metal axes and saws, and used the wood for their own houses, boats, heating, and eventually power. (Some boats were run by steam power, with wood-fired boilers.)

In the 1920s, large-scale industrial logging started to change the map, including the creation of Oyster Bay. (continued tomorrow.)

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