In the mid-1980s, to harvest sustainable energy Tasmania embarked on a massive hydroelectric dam project on the Pieman River. The area targeted to be turned into a lake held valuable timber, and loggers tried to harvest it before the dam's completion; but the inaccessibility of the site made for slow going, and the loggers hadn't made much of a dent in the forest by the time the dam was ready to come online.
As a result, the new Pieman Lake swallowed up a largely intact forest.
Tasmania's rot-resistant trees sat submerged for 30 years, in the absence of the oceanbound woodworms that eat up shipwrecks. The wood was incredibly well-preserved and valuable, consisting of 200-, 300- and 400-year-old species that were now difficult to find: Tasmanian Myrtle, Tasmanian Oak, Blackwood, Sassafras, Celery Top Pine, Huon Pine.
Then an innovative company called Hydrowood, co-founded by pilot David Wise and forestry and sustainability executive Andrew Morgan, figured out how to extract the trees. Hydrowood came up with a system using a GPS-equipped barge with a harvesting machine sitting on top, kitted out with both a large extraction claw and a submergible chainsaw.
Incredibly, there are no underwater cameras or sonar involved; the barge is simply maneuvered close to a visible treetop, and the highly-trained harvester operator locates the base of the tree by feel, gets the claw around the base, activates the saw, then hauls the tree up.
After the trees are milled, the quality of the wood is revealed—and it's pretty unbelievable.
"This is real timber," the company writes. "Timber (re) discovered. Timber that master builders dream of working with, harvested in a way you wouldn't believe and in quantities the world thought it would never see again."
Here's video of Hydrowood's fascinating process:
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