CPR Section House

CPR Section House

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Under Water Logging

Along the Quebec shore of the Ottawa River just upstream from the Capital , a unique kind of logging takes place . A very few specialized licenses are given to salvage companies that specialize in the underwater recovery of logs from the edges of the river .

These huge logs sometimes 5-6 feet across are leftovers from the Boom of the last quarter of the 1800's. Massive numbers of logs travelling the spring waters of the Ottawa River from the Mattawa area ended up near the Bytown(Ottawa) filling the River to its bottom - a chaotic crush of upended logs intricately intertwined - that would remind us of pickup sticks released . From this mass , logs were freed for milling into lumber , pried out of the tangle piling against the banks. Always in the process more logs from upriver crushed in behind . As a result of the unimaginable forces of jams and River , many logs were driven like arrows into the bottom of the River where they remained . Others were split like kindling under the pressure . Most of them are in tangled puzzles like the jams they came from . These companies may only retrieve a single log a week , but the value of one log boggles the mind.

 A friend of my husband who works for one such company has the floors in his home covered with wood of this ancient white pine ...I know ,I know ...The wood is too soft for floors . But when I saw these floorboards next to a new piece of pine , the difference was obvious . The density of the old wood almost made the grain disappear . It looked similar to maple in texture but hardness tests showed it to be harder than maple currently harvested from forests . New trees don't get the time to grow and compress to the strength of its ancestors . The conditon of the earth they grow in , the air they breathe and the water they drink can't nourish the potential of the past . So they are sickly and weak as a result . The telltale knots of this old white pine were rare and unlike today's pine , they remained tight - even after drying .In his workshop , we saw hunks of maple , black walnut , birch and poplar sitting next to old pine . It was hard not to think of it as hardwood .

When I was young , walking into Bell's Hardware or Ike Tonge's Clothing store on Main Street Mattawa was always a treasure and a secret pleasure of mine . I loved to skip among the knot lumps and sways worn into the floors by clientelle over 60 or more years (at that time ).The squeak and groan music they played as we moved around held the songs and stories of history for me . Seeing the same wood on a modern floor that had covered the modern store floors in Mattawa in 1900 was a juxtaposition that my soul absorbed ...the next verse of an old song.

 Protected by the River , these trees  hid for a hundred years . The outside inch or two penetrated only after a century ; the inside still green and smelling of fresh pinegum . Without the air above ,  they rested instate , untouched by rot and decay .

New laws to protect the River prevent the insanity of the Boom period invading these remnants of the virgin forest  and crushing their bones to a memory .

It is estimated that 60 000 000 000 (sixty billion) trees were taken down the Ottawa since 1870. About 1 billion are imbeded in the River along its length.

Valued now because there are so few .


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