Taipei, An infected 35-meter-tall tree in the eastern county of Taitung was chopped down last week by tree surgeons, who had to be suspended for hours at a time as they worked to remove individual sections of the tree, a forestry official said Wednesday.
The tree, a Moluccan albizia next to a trail in the Jhihben National Forest Recreational Area, had become infected and hollow after parts of it were broken off during Typhoon Nepartak in 2016, according to the Taitung Forest District Office.
The infection had become more serious recently so the office decided to have it removed in case it collapsed, Lin Meng-i (林孟怡), an official at the office, told CNA.
However, the tree was too far inside the forest to be reached by a machine and it could not be directly chopped down because of its size, so the office hired tree surgeons to remove it section by section, Lin said.
“The height itself is a risk,” Li Chien-lung (李潛龍), a tree surgeon who helped with the removal process, told CNA.
A 35-meter-tall tree is roughly 11 floors high, and each sawed off section weighs over a tonne, so the process is dangerous, he said.
In order to remove the sections, a tree worker suspended in the tree had to first affix it with rope and then saw off the section, which was then slowly lowered to the ground.
Due to the size of the trunk, only one tree worker could go up at a time, and they often stayed up for eight to nine hours because the process of moving up and down is complicated, said tree surgeon Liu Hsu-feng (劉旭峰).
Liu said that even though he got extremely thirsty during the process because of the heat and had to rest standing up, the feeling of being up there and looking down was strangely moving.
It’s like being one with the tree, he said.
After a week of sawing, the tree was reduced to 17 meters in height, and the tree surgeons decided to cut down the rest in one go on Sept. 20.
It’s always hard to see such tall trees get chopped down, Liu said, adding that they always start off believing the tree can somehow be saved.
As these hopes were slowly dashed when they realized how serious the damage was, they had to come to terms with it, he said.
As he watched the tree finally come down, Liu said, “Thank you for watching over this land.”
Lin, the forestry official, expressed similar sentiments over the removal, saying that she was grateful for what the tree provided.
Her office will see if the wood from the tree can be used to make chairs, tables or artwork, so it can live on.