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underwater forest logging with robots
December 3, 2006 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Triton Sawfish - underwater forest logging with robots.
posted by stbalbach (41 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
The 20th century saw a boom in damn construction, with the golden age between the 1930s and 1970. At its peak during the 1960s more than one large dam (50 feet or higher) was constructed per day somewhere in the world. By the 1990s about two-thirds of the globes streamflow passed over a dam of one sort or another.

In this rush to dam the world, forests were often left behind uncut. It is estimated there is over 100 billion linear board feet of usable timber submerged in the worlds vast and unexplored underwater forests.
posted by stbalbach at 9:18 AM on December 3, 2006


"Underwater logging robots." Thanks for the reminder that the actual future is so much stranger than I ever hoped it could be.
posted by phooky at 9:27 AM on December 3, 2006


The timber is in extremely good condition since it has not been exposed to oxygen and wood-decaying fungi. In fact, it often has superior attributes to much of the living timber now available from land-based harvesting.

Can that possibly be true? Wow.
posted by mediareport at 9:43 AM on December 3, 2006


I thought this was going to be about recovering logs that sunk on the way to the sawmill.

There seems to be a lot of regulations governing that now, and not much recently reported activities.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 9:46 AM on December 3, 2006


I want to see an underwater lumberjack.
posted by Frank Grimes at 9:51 AM on December 3, 2006


Once the robots prove themselves underwater, will they be adapted to use on land?
posted by jamjam at 9:56 AM on December 3, 2006


We aren't doing a good enough job deforesting this poor planet already?
posted by EatTheWeak at 10:13 AM on December 3, 2006 [1 favorite]


As interesting and cunning as this technology is, it dissapoints me that we're driven to the point where this is an economically viable solution.
posted by furtive at 10:14 AM on December 3, 2006


We aren't doing a good enough job deforesting this poor planet already?

In this case, the damage has already been done. The forests were "deforested" already. No "new" land is being deforested.

As interesting and cunning as this technology is, it dissapoints me that we're driven to the point where this is an economically viable solution.

It's only economically viable because a) wood is still a great building material, b) other building materials are too expensive precisely because of environmental protections (at least in part).

Think about it. Steel-framed buildings ... where do you get the iron? From great big holes in the ground. How do you dig the holes? With gas-powered machinery.

The alternative is even more carving away at the forests that do exist.
posted by frogan at 10:21 AM on December 3, 2006


The 20th century saw a boom in damn construction

No need to editorialize.

Once the robots prove themselves underwater, will they be adapted to use on land?

How about air?
posted by dhartung at 10:25 AM on December 3, 2006 [1 favorite]


it dissapoints me that we're driven to the point where this is an economically viable solution.

Dude, the cut trees *float* to the top of the lake, where a barge is waiting. That's pretty cheap transport to me. I'm no logging expert, but at the very least, this salvage work looks like a green-friendly thing with the potential to cut down on logging above the water line.
posted by mediareport at 10:27 AM on December 3, 2006


Allow me to be the first to welcome our new robotic underwater logging overlords.
posted by mosk at 10:33 AM on December 3, 2006


ohhhhhh

I'mmm a (robot) lumberjack and I'm (in a way superior to humans) okay
I (don't ever) sleep all night and I work (tirelessly) all day!

I cut down trees, I (don't) eat lunch, I (don't) go to the lavatory
On wednesdays I (mock the piteous notion of) going shopping,
and (scorn) buttered scones for tea.
posted by tehloki at 10:43 AM on December 3, 2006 [2 favorites]


buy they do enjoy wearing high heels...
posted by PenDevil at 10:48 AM on December 3, 2006


Since someone has to bring it up in every discussion of logging, I may as well take a turn - what about hemp?

tehloki - awesome.
posted by EatTheWeak at 10:51 AM on December 3, 2006


Here is a six legged land harvester. Via Boing Boing.
posted by Mr_Zero at 11:01 AM on December 3, 2006


If this keeps up our walleyes children will never see a forest.
posted by Iron Rat at 11:08 AM on December 3, 2006


tehloki: I see your post and raise you....

I'm a (robot) lumberjack baby
I'm gonna cut you down to size
I'm a(n underwater robot) lumberjack baby
And you're the one that gets my prize
And when you hear my (submerged) motor running
You know I surely be coppin' a rise
So I'm gonna crank it up and cut it down

I ain't jacked my lumber, baby
Since my (underwater) chain saw you.
posted by aliasless at 11:29 AM on December 3, 2006 [1 favorite]


I did an interview for these guys a few years ago (didn't get the job, so keep a grain of salt handy). They seemed like a skilled group, and I'm glad to see the progress they've made since then. I continue to be a little wary about the size of their market, but apparently they've got at least one customer locked up. Alcan is helping to fund development of the Sawfish as part of reparations to native groups who's land they flooded.
posted by Popular Ethics at 12:46 PM on December 3, 2006


I think this is a great idea, it helps to reduce the need to cut down living forests on land by harvesting wood that's otherwise going to go to waste.
posted by fenriq at 1:03 PM on December 3, 2006


The 20th century saw a boom in damn construction
No need to editorialize.


Not sure what you mean, dhartung.
posted by stbalbach at 1:37 PM on December 3, 2006


stbalbach - it appears to be a hilarious typo.
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:40 PM on December 3, 2006


stbalbach: he wrote damn instead of dam.
posted by furtive at 1:40 PM on December 3, 2006


Maybe there are trees to be harvested under this blue background.

proceeds to unleash the robot harvesters in the Metafilter server room
posted by furtive at 1:42 PM on December 3, 2006


Dude, the cut trees *float* to the top of the lake...

More likely, they'd rocket to the surface and clear about a third of their height out of water before falling over and floating. (I'm not up on physics. Are there any physicians here?)

Also: Under these circumstances, what do they yell? REBMIT?
posted by hal9k at 1:58 PM on December 3, 2006 [1 favorite]



This reminds me I have video of me and some others scuba diving through a forest at about 35-50 feet. A full pine tree forest, which is now completely underwater. It's great stuff and I need to get this digitized...
posted by fluffycreature at 2:00 PM on December 3, 2006


hah.. wow jokes on me :)
posted by stbalbach at 2:01 PM on December 3, 2006


This reminds me I have video of me and some others scuba diving through a forest at about 35-50 feet. A full pine tree forest, which is now completely underwater. It's great stuff and I need to get this digitized...

I NEED to see this. Make it happen, please!
posted by frogan at 2:15 PM on December 3, 2006


#hal9k: > Dude, the cut trees *float* to the top of the lake...

More likely, they'd rocket to the surface and clear about a third of their height out of water before falling over and floating.


Actually, there is a good chance the wood has become waterlogged and won't float at all. See my comment #above about recovering logs that have sunk.

I'm not sure how long waterlogging takes but a few years should do it.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 2:39 PM on December 3, 2006



I think the wood would be preserved, and also wouldn't float. I can't find the source, but there was a salvage operation a few years back in North Minnesota/Canada on the Lake Superior coast. The group was trying to locate some old growth timber that was on a train when an accident occured and the train with cargo went into the Lake.

From what I understand, because the Lake S. is cold, it preserved the and today would be highly valuable as timber. Valuable enough to bring ships and professional scuba divers out to look for the wreck. I don't remember what came of it.

My logic here is completely based on this story, which was interesting.
posted by fluffycreature at 3:11 PM on December 3, 2006


Ingenuity
posted by caddis at 3:27 PM on December 3, 2006


Purely out of idle curiosity, what steps would need to be taken to make waterlogged wood usable? Can they just dry it out? I would actually think that wood submerged for the better part of a half century (or more) would be rotted and next to useless. Clearly this is not the case.

# Powered by a 40-75 HP electric motor, using biodegradable and vegetable oil-based hydraulic fluids

# 37-50 inflatable/reusable airbags to float trees to surface (one bag per tree)


I like that they are focusing on the green aspects of this. No snark. It seems like a smart move for a logging company to take this approach.
posted by quin at 4:48 PM on December 3, 2006


Given the amount of methane given off by submerged vegetation when it finally does break down, this is a greenhouse win as well.
posted by flabdablet at 5:34 PM on December 3, 2006


If you think this is cool, you'll love bog wood.
posted by MrMoonPie at 5:35 PM on December 3, 2006


Purely out of idle curiosity, what steps would need to be taken to make waterlogged wood usable?

There was an episode of Dirty Jobs (Discovery Channel) that dealt with locating old-growth timber that had sunk to the bottom of the Great Lakes. In this case, the people locating the sunken logs weren't after the wood's structural integrity, but the grain patterns. Old-growth wood makes for valuable furniture, and the stuff just isn't available anymore (or rather, not ethically available).

So, the company in this case would slice the sunken timber into very thin sheets, and the sheets are then glued to cheaper materials (even particleboard). Voila -- instant, antique quality furniture.
posted by frogan at 5:54 PM on December 3, 2006


new growth, old growth on the bottom, they are all much too moist to use at harvest. Cut into squared off boards and store until ready for use. It's called seasoning, but really it is just letting the boards dry out and doing so with them positioned in such a fashion as to minimize warpage.
posted by caddis at 8:34 PM on December 3, 2006


Florida's Goodwin Heart Pine Company offers several species of River-recovered® wood:
How can wood from under water get dry?

River-recovered® logs are actually drier than freshly cut trees. The wood fibers are more relaxed from their 150+ year rest (see Fine Woodworking, August 1997). The wood is filled with oleoresin and does not take on any water. Even so, we carefully saw, air dry, then slowly kiln dry your wood to ensure that it will easily acclimate into your project's interior.
More about their antique woods [PDF].
posted by cenoxo at 12:57 AM on December 4, 2006


This is one way to make a summertime game of marco polo or sharks and minnows a hell of a lot more interesting!
posted by Pollomacho at 1:30 AM on December 4, 2006


aliasless: I'll favorite you if you favorite me.
posted by tehloki at 2:37 PM on December 4, 2006


aliasless: I'll favorite yours if you favorite mine.
posted by tehloki at 2:37 PM on December 4, 2006


mediareport writes "Can that possibly be true?"

There are guys recovering cypress that was knocked down in a flood 45,000 years ago.
posted by Mitheral at 9:27 AM on December 5, 2006


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