I can't get my head around this.

Submitted: Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 22:02
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Today I visited a great little museum at Wentworth NSW.
Some of you might know it, it’s opposite the old Gaol.
In the museum there is part of an old river red gum that was cut down in 1971.
Why is it in the museum?
Well, in the middle of the stump of this red gum, and it is around 1 metre in diameter and estimated to be about 200 years old, in the middle of this stump is the remains of an old box tree.
The red gum has grown completely around this old box tree.
So you can see the remains of the box tree in the middle of this huge old red gum stump.
Now the mind blowing part.
The box tree has been cut down at some stage with a metal axe. It is a pretty clean cut through the trunk of the box tree.
Well, we have an estimated 200 year old tree cut down in 1971, so that dates the gum to around 1770, give or take a few years.
But who was around Wentworth before that with a metal axe cutting down box trees.
Charles Sturt didn’t get to that area until the 1830’s.
Has anybody got any clues to who might have been around that area at that time?
The aboriginals only had stone tools and only took bark from the trees for their canoes and dishes.
Who could it have been?

cheers

Dave
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Reply By: Battery Value Pty Ltd - Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 22:39

Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 22:39
Maybe Christopher de Mendonca or one of his buddies traded some tools for other stuff when he came for a visit to Botany Bay in 1522 ;)

cheers, Peter
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Reply By: equinox - Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 22:48

Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 22:48
Hi Dave,

Perhaps the box tree was cut whilst the gum already was alive for a few decades. That could put the date forward quite a few decades....

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Alan



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Follow Up By: Dave B ( BHQ NSW) - Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 23:03

Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 23:03
I see where you are coming from Alan, but why would they want to cut down a box tree?
If they needed firewood the box tree would have been no good as it was living, and there would also have been plenty of dead wood around as well. It was pretty close to the Murray river.
Box trees don't grow very straight, so I don't know why it might have been cut down.
The box is surrounded by the red gum just as a core in an apple.
cheers

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Follow Up By: equinox - Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 23:15

Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 23:15
The only reason I can think of as to why they would want to cut down the box tree, is that the gum had some sort of significance, and the box tree was shed.

That still would not explain the use of a metal axe.






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Reply By: Member - Royce- Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 23:30

Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 23:30
I can't quite picture how the red gum has grown around the box tree.
How much of the box tree is there?

Are there branches, or just a piece of the box tree? How big is the box tree? Is it protruding from the redgum stump? What part was cut? How do you know it was a metal axe that was used?

Is the box tree on its side? How thick is the trunk?
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Follow Up By: Member - Royce- Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 23:44

Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 23:44
Okay.... I just found out most of the answers to my questions in a bit of blurb from the museum:

"The museum also has an unusual redgum tree trunk. When it was cut down in 1971 it was found that the tree had grown around and entirely engulfed another tree stump which had been felled with an axe. The inner tree has been dated at 200 years. "

So... to the question of the 'metal' axe... how has that been decided?
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Follow Up By: Dave B ( BHQ NSW) - Friday, Feb 24, 2012 at 00:00

Friday, Feb 24, 2012 at 00:00
I guess the best way I can describe it Royce is that it is quite a clean cut.
The box trunk is about 20cms in diameter, and the cut goes about 3/4 way through with what appears to be one blow with an axe. It really is quite a clean cut.
On reflection, it would have to be an almighty blow to sink an axe maybe 15cms into a box tree.
But, a stone axe certainly would leave a much more jagged cut I would imagine

"The museum also has an unusual redgum tree trunk. When it was cut down in 1971 it was found that the tree had grown around and entirely engulfed another tree stump which had been felled with an axe. The inner tree has been dated at 200 years. "

I am not sure on that point about the inner tree being dated at 200 years, but the red gum trunk is about 1 metre diameter, so that would be a very old tree.
I think it might be a typo and it is the outer tree dated at 200 years.

I wish I had taken a photo of it now.

cheers

Dave
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Reply By: The Explorer - Friday, Feb 24, 2012 at 00:14

Friday, Feb 24, 2012 at 00:14
Hi

Dont assume the second tree started growing the day after the first was cut down.

Reason why someone would chop one particular tree down? Impossible to figure out..but it appears they did chop it down and the other grew around it.

Problem solved :)

Well thats my guess.

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Greg
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Reply By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Friday, Feb 24, 2012 at 01:06

Friday, Feb 24, 2012 at 01:06
"Eucalyptus camaldulensis (River Red Gum) has probably one of the fastest growth rates for a tree and with a good water supply can attain a height of 12-15 m in a few years (Cunningham et al., 1981)."

It was stated that the "inner tree has been dated at 200 years" (Royce) and if the Red Gum has a fast growth rate as above then it may not have been many years ago that it germinated. The "inner tree" may have been cut down not long before that Red Gum germination which would place the Gum felling maybe fairly recently.

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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Friday, Feb 24, 2012 at 01:08

Friday, Feb 24, 2012 at 01:08
Sorry, not the "Gum felling".......the inner tree felling.

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Reply By: Ozrover - Friday, Feb 24, 2012 at 09:45

Friday, Feb 24, 2012 at 09:45
Yeah I also sew the exhibit about 5 or six years ago when travelling through the are.

I remember having a chuckle at how many people still think that the British were the first europeans in Australia!

There were many intentional as well as unintentional landings on the great southern land by the Dutch & Portugese & by who knows else!

Why wouldn't one of these have traded with the locals, there was a strong tradeing philosophy with the Aboriginals of the past, & the "metel" axe head could have been traded across the country from the west coast.

Just my 2 cents worth.

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Follow Up By: SDG - Monday, Feb 27, 2012 at 20:42

Monday, Feb 27, 2012 at 20:42
Interesting how this has come up as I have recently been reading about shipwrecks off our coast. There are hundreds of them, and many dating back well before the English found us.
Who is to say there were not survivors who managed to save tools...

On a similar note, there are reputed to be 100's of millions of dollars worth of treasure still to be found from these shipwrecks, mostly off WA coast. Bit of incentive to go beachcombing.
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Reply By: Member - John and Val - Friday, Feb 24, 2012 at 11:07

Friday, Feb 24, 2012 at 11:07
Hi Dave,

Interesting, but a lot seems to hang on the dating of one or other of the trees. Who did the dating and how experienced were they? Its pretty difficult to date eucalypts using tree rings because they dont have the annual growth pattern of northern hemisphere trees.

A 1m diameter river red gum could quite possibly be less than 200 years old. Also they have a tendency for trunks and branches that are close to each other to fuse together.Image Could Not Be Found The tree in the photo had a number of branches joining together. In central Vic I have seen a tree (said to be one of quite a number) where aboriginals plaited the branches together and they subsequently fused to form a coarse lattice. Maybe the red gum surrounding the cut down box started life as more than one tree (or a coppice) and multiple trunks later fused together?

I recall someone from down near Wentworth whose family had lived in the area for a few generations telling me how some of the early weird land tenure laws had the effect of encouraging the squatters/graziers to clear their land of every tree, including along the riverbanks. This could explain why a box tree was cut down. It also suggests that at least in some places all the r. r. gums etc that we now see are regrowth.

Regrowth from early clearing tended to be very thick, and River red gums seedlings can form dense carpets. Image Could Not Be Found. This photo was taken last year on the Darling River.

Finally a skilled axeman with a good axe could easily make a clean cut several cm deep into green timber. With precision cutting, even if a few blows are involved the cut surface will look smooth. I know this from seeing how my axeman son cuts logs.

Putting all that together, my guess is that the box tree was cut down by early settlers. Subsequent regrowth of river red gums has then enclosed the stump.

Cheers,

Val
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Follow Up By: Dave B ( BHQ NSW) - Friday, Feb 24, 2012 at 20:41

Friday, Feb 24, 2012 at 20:41
I agree Val that it is difficult to date many trees because of climatic conditions.
Take the last decade where you could walk across the Murray in many places for long periods in time, and the last couple of years there has been floods, so the growth would have been substantially different.

We know that red gums grow fairly quickly to get themselves established, attaining 4-5 metres in a few years in favourable conditions.
But that is still generally quite a narrow trunk and they don't start branching out for a few years. They are busy putting down a substantial root system to sustain themselves.

For them to get a trunk diameter of about 1 metre, they would have to have been around for a long time.
The specimen in question at Wentworth has a couple of explanatory signs on it suggesting it would be around 200 years old, and I assume that estimate was made by supposedly learned and experienced people who know a bit about red gums and their habitat.

Offhand I don't recall how close to the base of the trunk the remains of the box tree was, but I did do a quick rough measurement in my mind, thinking the diameter would be about 1 metre. The gum had completely surrounded the box, with no evidently visible signs where the tree had joined again as it surrounded the box, although obvioulsy that is what happened.

You will have to check it out next time you are passing that way.

cheers

Dave
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Reply By: Member - peter C (VIC) - Monday, Feb 27, 2012 at 11:11

Monday, Feb 27, 2012 at 11:11
a very interesting book on pre british european influence is 'And their ghosts may be heard' by rupert gerritsen. Lots of interesting info and questions peter
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