Olympic Mountains South of Dungeness Spit: Note log on lower left.
Dungeness Spit, west of Sequim (pronounced squim), Washington on the Olympic Peninsula features a variety of great combined cultural and geologic aspects. One I didn’t expect involved the timber industry, which created a dynamic, sculpture gallery of old growth logs along the spit’s beach.
The timber industry plays a huge role in shaping the culture, economy and landscape of North America’s Pacific Northwest. From the mid-1800s on, people logged forests all over Washington. At first, they cleared rocks, vegetation and stumps to make room for settlements and farms. Settlers constructed mills to deal with the felled trees. Some quickly transformed into timber barons. Other logging tycoons soon set up shop in the American West to harvest its enormous trees. From the late 1800s through the 1960s, loggers cleared forests with wild abandon. The old growth trees were quickly plucked from the ground. As technology increased, so did efficiency.
Waves Crash on Dungeness Spit's Western Shore
This efficiency did not benefit the landscape. Areas completely cleared of vegetation during the 1960s still have almost nothing growing on them. I see it all the time. As an archaeologist, I investigate them all over the west, and I know their history. Erosion depletes them greatly.
The environmental problems stemming from this, in concert with the economic issues associated with lack of remaining old growth timber, caused Pacific Northwest residents to re-evaluate the industry. Timber continues to be an important player today, but the industry harvests smaller and fewer trees. The old growth have been gone for years. The REALLY BIG ones were harvested in the beginning, in the 1800s and early 1900s.
This brings me back to Dungeness Spit. I visited yesterday (June 4, 2011) and noticed rounded, incredibly eroded, person-hewn logs. The logs were enormous, probably from the beginning of the logging era, during the 1800s and early 1900s. They mainly rest on the crest or near it on the west side of the spit, but some lie over the crest.
Dungeness Log Sculptures
I say over the crest when referring to the spit’s east side because the waves crash on the west side. Therefore, all material emanates from the west: rocks, sand, seaweed, and, of course, logs. Wood weighs less than rocks, and the numerous air pockets formed from cells increase its buoyancy. This allows the water to throw logs high on the spit crest.
The logs are rounded and pocked, just like the rocks on the beach. The rocks, sand and water have shaped them through time, creating ever-changing sculptures lying on the beach in a haphazard gallery.
Pebbles Shape Log: Divets Formed by Pebbles
Rays Exposed by Cell Erosion in Center
Olympic Mountains South of Dungeness Spit by Shari Maria Silverman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Rays Exposed by Cell Erosion in Center by Shari Maria Silverman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Waves Crash on Dungeness Spit by Shari Maria Silverman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Dungeness Log Sculptures by Shari Maria Silverman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Pebbles Shape Log by Shari Maria Silverman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.