The marks of man

Lake King William, the electricity transmission lines and their towers, the cleared but regrowing areas surrounding them, and the nearby 4WD vehicle tracks changed the landscape from its original form and I spotted other signs of non-aboriginal intervention in the bush.

As I was closing in on civilisation again, while nearing the town ship of Derwent Bridge, I noticed a felled log beside the track with saw marks.  What struck me as strange was the way more than one straight length of timber had been sawn from within the tree trunk.

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Not a letterbox

When walking through the bush from time to time you see tree stumps with a horizontal man-made slit.  These were not letter boxes for use by the old European settlers.  Rather they were part of the process to fell huge ancient trees. Where I was walking, the trees would have been felled to clear a path for the electrical transmission power lines and the 4WD track.


These notches were made in the days when strong men wielded axes with accuracy and extraordinary bush knowledge. This was before chain saws: the massive girth of many trees would have rendered such equipment useless. In addition, such tree clearings were in an area too remote for massive machinery to access, even if it had existed.

At its simplest, the process can be described as: first the axeman cuts a small slit in the tree trunk then jams a board into the gap.  He (and I have never heard of a woman doing this) jumps up onto that board. Then he creates a new slit higher up the tree, grabs a second board and jams that into the new slit.  He jumps up onto the second board and releases the first board, rests it across the one on which he stands, and then he cuts another slit higher up. The process is repeated until he is sufficiently high to start cutting a 45 degree notch which will help the tree fall in a certain direction.  After a while, the axeman descends and repeats the process up the same tree from another angle, then continues on cutting the notch until the top part of the tree sends signs that it will fall. At this point, in order to stay alive, he jumps down the tree as quickly as he can and moves a distance away being careful not to be struck by any other vegetation or tree than is inadvertently brought down at an unexpected angle.

From this practice has grown the international sport of wood chopping which includes a competition on tree felling.  The image below from the Queensland Archive shows how this looks in the sporting arena.

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Did you know the first wood chopping competitions were held on the north-west coast of Tasmania (not far from where I was born)? These days the competitions have become an international event.  To see how it all works in practice, at least in competitions, I suggest you have a look at a local competition in Canada on You Tube

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