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.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Behind The Image - JOAKIM BERGLUND JOAKIM BERGLUND Joakim is a free­lance pho­tog­ra­pher who spe­cialises in aerial im­agery. air­pic­

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.

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