Thursday, 15 March 2018


Amusing Planet brings us the story of the planet’s loneliest tree, a stunted Sitka spruce, and how this transplant is the perfect candidate to mark the separation of the Anthropocene geological epoch. While on a survey expedition, Uchter Knox, Earl of Ranfurly and Governor of New Zealand, visited the remote Campbell Island and was possessed for to plant a tree on this otherwise treeless piece of land, whose climate is hostile to anything growing above ground level.
The specimen that Knox choose, however, is indigenous to a strip of coast in British Columbia—from the opposite ends of the Earth almost—and while not exactly qualifying as an invasive species, the spruce having taken root but never matured to produce cones, it does demonstrate the effect that humans have on the environment. Moreover, the tree is a contender for a “golden spike,” a symbolic milestone like the ceremonial final spike driven that marked the completion of the North American transcontinental railroad that arraign other epochal transitions like the asteroid strike that ended the Paleocene and age of the dinosaurs sixty-six million years hence, as the tree is also a living record of humanity’s attempt to harness and weaponise nuclear fission and fusion. In order to demonstrate that the impact of nuclear testing was truly pervasive and global—that no one was out of range, no matter how isolated or removed—researchers took core samples of the Sitka spruce and found traces of the radioactive carbon isotope that is the signature sign of atomic explosions especially concentrated in the growth rings that corresponded to the mid-1960s when testing was at its peak.