Growing out of the ashes
As Sweden picked up the pieces in the months following its worst-ever storm, an oak tree appeared on the landscape.
The world was still recovering from the shock of the Boxing Day Tsunami when Cyclone Gudrun hurtled through southern Sweden (and Denmark) on 8 January 2005. It was the worst storm the country had known, pulling roofs off houses, tearing down phone masts and ravaging the landscape.
The spruce pines that characterise the region’s forests didn’t stand a chance against Gudrun, whose 165kmph gusts ripped out their shallow roots and snapped their trunks in half “like matchsticks”. In five hours, 75 million m3 of forest was felled, plunging its owners into financial ruin and creating a timber stockpile so enormous that it became something of a tourist attraction.
Calm after the storm
Six months after the event, flying above the area in a Cessna aircraft to cover a crime story for a national newspaper, Joakim spotted a pattern resembling a vast oak tree carved out of the greenery below. “I was approaching from the west, so the tree appeared ‘standing up’,” he recalls. “Seeing such a strong, clear shape amid the spruce pines was incredible. I remember thinking, what the heck is that and who made it?!”
Gudrun had bashed out the shape of the canopy; foresters using machinery and vehicles to clear the fallen debris then filled in the detail, creating a poignant symbol only visible from the air. “The image is a reminder that we are likely to face increasingly strong winds and storms as a result of global warming, and also of the consequences of planting fast-growing species such as pine on land not intended for them,” says Joakim. “This image was shaped by nature itself, as if Earth was telling us to slow down and refocus.”
Today, saplings have filled the empty land; a ghostly trace is all that remains of the tree that emerged from the storm.