These silent giants are for me like living beasts of the forest, and seeing them cut down like this gives me a sadness akin to seeing photos taken a century ago of whales being slaughtered en masse.
Nature’s giants of the forest were quietly minding their own business as saplings at the same time as Romans were building nice straight roads to foreign climes and then two thousand years later someone arrives with a hacksaw and declares that that amazing chunk of timber would make a mighty fine mast for their next ship and fells it without a thought to sustainability or the extraordinary length of time it took to grow it this big.
There was a man called Tudor Washington Collins (wow… are they brilliant first names or what? I bet there might have been a story or two behind that!) …who took an interest in Kauri, actually the word “obsession” might be closer to the truth, and thankfully although many Kauri were removed from Northland forests, at least thanks to him we have a record of their existence. He’s the man featured in my first photo, he lived between 1898 and 1970, was born in Paiaka, a small Northland community. He worked as a bushman for his brother in the Coromandel and it’s there he photographed his first Kauri tree.
Later in Warkworth we established a photography business and a radio and electrical business in 1925 and later still he farmed out on the Takatu Peninsula.
He was so impressed by the efforts of the Kauri museum that he donated to it his famous collection of photographic negatives and enlargements, much of which gives invaluable information into the relatively recent history of Kauri in New Zealand.
Shifting these massive timbers out of the bush often posed a problem, so one method used was to dam up streams and creeks, fell the Kauri into the waterways and then to break the dams and let the torrent of water move the lot. This was called a “drive of Kauri”. The one featured in this next photo is at Rata Bush, Ruakaka 1937.
In the next photo the steam tramway was built with picks and shovels, the steam tram came from Dunedin in the South Island and hauled logs in the Pupuke bush near Whangaroa.
George Murray and sons used lumber jacks to move Kauri logs into a driving creek, the photo text noted their heights… useful for visualising how bir the log is: from Left, The father… George 6’7″ (204cm) and sons: Jack 6’4 (195cm) and Ivan 6’6″(201cm)
This next giant log went on to be used in boat building, kind of gives new meaning to ” going out to split some wood” doesn’t it?
When people assumed that supply was endless, wastage was horrific… the next photo shows wood just left behind…
Another tree destined for shipbuilding, this one is 56′long and contains 20.000,- super feet of timber.
On the Kirikopuni circa 1903, logs are jacked onto horse drawn trucks for transport to Wairoa saw mills…
Rafting at Whangaroa, this photo was taken in 1924. This large raft of Kauri logs towed by the steam tug “Lyttleton”. This little ship was very well known as a rafting paddle streamer on the north eastern coast of the North Island.
Now that people are more enlightened and these trees are afforded as much protection as is humanly possible, these logging scenes will thankfully never be repeated. Instead they serve as timely reminders that even now in 2012 we think we have resources that plentiful, and ours for the using but that future generations may well look back on our generation, shake their heads and wonder too at our callous plundering ways.