Monday, April 09, 2007

Karri fire towers

Karri trees are the tallest species of Eucalypt native to Western Australia. As a valuable, fast-growing timber resource, they have been logged since at least the end of the 19th century. Despite growing in the wetter, cooler, more temperate regions of the state, Karri forests are fire prone. Prior to the invention of the airplane, fire spotting in Karri country was tricky. Since the trees can be more than 80 meters (250 feet) tall, you need a pretty big tower to see over them. Unless you build a treefort.

In the early 20th century, almost a dozen fire towers were built in the tops of high standing karri trees for fire spotting. Two of these towers still exist, and are open to the public. One of them is still functional. In addition, during the bicentennial (1988), a replica tree tower was built in Warren National Park. At 74 meters, this is not only the highest tree tower, it is the tallest fire tower of any kind (if Wikipedia can be trusted) currently standing. From the top, you can see lots of other really tall trees, and the roof of the visitor’s center far below.

Unlike the original towers, this new tree has a rest platform a third of the way up. This gave me a steady location from which to photograph the patient and lovely Mrs. Lemming, who scampered down in a fraction of the time of her acrophobic husband.

Tip for would-be tree climbers: Don’t wear sandals. Any slight nervousness can combine with warm summer temperatures to cause the soles of the feet to sweat. This reduces the coefficient of friction on the foot/sandal interface, reducing stability and increasing the anxiety that generates this perspiration. I think climate guys call that positive feedback. I just found it to be unnerving.

1 comment:

Geek with Wings said...

Been there done that with the sandals thing - and an even bigger mistake would be to wear them to the National Sand Dunes monument on a hot day.... Not that I would ever do such a thing *cough*. Great pictures, by the way.