Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Recycling the lost timbers of Atlantis?

Here’s an interesting snippet from the January issue of one of my favorite magazines, Wonderful West Virginia. The article, “Haunting beauty below ‘see level,’” is about a man-made lake in my home state:

“…Wood decomposes most readily, either organically or chemically, in the presence of oxygen, light, and warmth. None of these components is abundant in [most lakes]. The water is naturally cold, and sunlight quickly dims with depth. And although there’s enough oxygen in the water to keep fish alive, there’s not enough to promote the decomposition of wood. Thus the stumps in the lake, like the long-forgotten logs that rest at the bottom of many other bodies of water, remain unchanged as years go by.

Indeed, a whole new industry, the salvaging of underwater logs, is developing in Canada. A company called Logs End harvests logs that sank in the Ottawa River in the heyday of nineteenth-century logging operations. These logs are milled and used as beams, flooring, and paneling in homes today….”

This reminds me of a historical tidbit I picked up while traveling in Italy during college: many old waterfront cities in Europe (like Venice) are supported by submerged, wooden pilings that are centuries old, yet still structurally sound. How can this be? Because they’ve been kept totally underwater, in the dark. If you were to excavate them, they would quickly decompose as soon as they were exposed to air and light.

Glad to hear that the lumber industry is making use of this forgotten underwater resource.

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