Chopper chopping

Last week, on the way home from the farmers market, we could see a helicopter doing something close by, low to the ground. We stopped to investigate.

It turned out that this impressively large tree had to come down. Don’t know why exactly, although the apartment building behind it is undergoing some sort of major construction, and it sits on a very steep slope above railroad tracks.

People who know what they’re doing must have looked at this tree and decided it was quicker to do it this way then any other way. So, they roped a couple of guys up into the tree and used the helicopter to take sections across the railroad tracks to a giant shredder waiting on the other side.

We were mesmerized. We stood there and watched for well over an hour as the helicopter pilot, leaning out the door, guided the line with a hook on it to the waiting hands of the lumberjacks. I don’t know if all helicopter pilots are that good, or if he had some sort of amazing auto-pilot, but whatever was going on, he could put that line exactly where he wanted it and then hover there without any indication of difficulty.

Once they had the line, the lumberjacks clipped in a section of limb, let’s say 15 to 20 feet long, fired up their saws and cut it off. I’ve spent some time with a chainsaw, but I’ve never actually seen a professional working like that. The bar must’ve been at least 36 inches long, on a saw I could barely lift over my head with both hands. once. These guys were swinging the saws around with one hand, while roped into a tree, all day long, and cutting through 2-foot thick sections of tree like a hot knife through butter, inches from their faces.

Each cycle, cut fly drop shred, took just about one minute. The level of precision, the level of teamwork, as well as the amazing physical strength of the the guys in the tree, combined with some pretty serious actual danger, made this spellbinding. We both walked away wishing we could figure out how to get our workplaces to function with anything like that level of coordination.

We learned later in conversation that there is a fair amount of logging in NZ that happens on protected land, where no roads can be built. Therefore, in fact there is a cadre of people who do helicopter logging for a living, so maybe not as exceptional as we thought. But still… Wow!

Kinda sad for the tree, but there is a lot of vegetation here, and what a show!

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