Through nearly a century of logging along Bear Creek, the ungainly, 95-foot Douglas fir survived.
Its top was long gone, probably lost in a windstorm. A single fat branch curved skyward. At chest height, the trunk was nearly 7-1/2 feet thick.
The tree that made neighboring timber on Crown Pacific Ltd. land seem like toothpicks was logged last week for a $9 million restoration of the 143-year-old USS Constellation, the last all-sail vessel built by the Navy.
A logging crew needed two and a half days to cut, trim and split it down the middle with a custom-made, portable sawmill. Each half was loaded onto a logging truck and hauled to Pacific Western Timbers Inc. in Port Orchard.
“You don’t get to see one of these babies every day,” said Russ Paul, Crown Pacific timberlands manager.
With rings about one to the millimeter near the outer edge and farther apart near the core, the tree may have been a couple thousand years old, just the kind the Constellation Foundation has been scouring the world to find, executive director Lou Linden said.
The 176-foot sloop, a longtime magnet for visitors on the Baltimore waterfront, went into dry dock last December. Work is scheduled for completion in 1999.
To replace rotting timbers in the hull of the retired warship, the Port Orchard mill is to cut the ancient tree into pieces 6-1/2 inches thick, 14 inches wide and 60 to 90 feet long.
“This is the real thing,” Linden said. “We’re looking at preserving this ship for the next 100 years, and one of the ways you do that is by finding the best wood possible.”
To locate such a tree, restoration experts turned to Pacific Western president John Wagner, who found wood for restoration of the 200-year-old USS Constitution in Boston a few years earlier.
Tropical wood from Guyana and custom laminate from domestic white oak also is being used in the Constellation, Linden said.
“For those of us who build and preserve ships, there’s a certain ambivalence in taking a tree that’s been growing since Columbus landed,” Linden admitted, “but I can’t think of a more noble purpose.”
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