The heft and feel of a well-worn handle,
The sight of shavings that curl from a blade;
The logs in the wood pile, the sentiment of huge beams in an old-fashioned house;
The smell of fresh cut timber and the pungent fragrance of burning leaves;
The crackle of kindling and the hiss of burning logs.
Abundant to all the needs of man, how poor the world would be
Without wood.

Everard Hinrichs, quoted by Eric Sloane in A Reverence for Wood


Thursday, October 25, 2012

The James Craig of Sydney

Sydney harbor at dusk
My last evening in Australia was spent in Sydney harbor, touring the waterfront and sampling the local fare and grogs. In the process, I managed to squeeze in a tour of the tall ship James Craig. The ship was salvaged off the coast of New Zealand and restored to immaculate sailing condition by a dedicated group of tall ship aficionados. While the ship is an iron-sided barque, not a wooden ship like our own U.S.S. Constitution,  it featured some magnificent woodwork in the restoration.

Typical local fare
I was privileged to receive an (almost) private tour from one of the ship's owners. I captured the entire tour on video, and although the video quality is spotty, the audio is pretty good throughout and the guide tells a wonderful story full of details. The entire video is fifty minutes long, so if you're only interested in seeing the wood species used in the reconstruction, you can skip ahead to the 35-minute mark and watch from there. At about that point, I'm embarrassed by not being able to identify bird's-eye maple used for paneling in the captain's quarters. That's what happens when you get out of your own waters and have your brain swirling with alien trivia of woods you've never heard of in your life. Or it may have been the grog. But it does reveal how interestingly different the "timbers" of Australia are, when one can mistake maple for a pine species on first glance.

My guide also made some interesting comments starting around the 6-minute mark concerning the coal industry, which was one of the ship's primary customers back in its heyday around 1910. The ship hauled timber from New Zealand and coal back to the Kiwis on its return. His comments reflect common modern attitudes toward coal, which are quite a bit different than people's attitudes back then. We can afford to be dismissive of a great, dense natural energy source least, we seem to think we can afford to be. Time will tell if attitudes will swing back some day.

Now, if you're interested in seeing the ship in action, you must watch the following video. It shows some great footage of the ship on the rolling seas that look right out of Master and Commander. Wish I could have been in those scenes, as well.

A great ship, and a magnificent tribute to the power of determination of a strong group of like-minded folks. I congratulate the supporters of the James Craig on a job very well done.

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