Text Box: A New World Record: Coast Redwoods 
Reach for the Sky

By Todd Dawson

This past summer (2006) the tallest tree known was discovered in a remote region of Redwood Nation Park. As avid naturalists and big tree enthusiasts, Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor were a very likely duo to make this discovery. On this particular day Atkins and Taylor came across the giant - ‘Hyperion’ - that turned out to be the tallest known coast redwood and a new world record in tree height. As with past tall tree discoveries, once again the mighty redwood, Sequoia Sempervirens, retained its place in the record books and in history as the tallest tree of the time. Ironically, the discovery of ‘Hyperion’ came just weeks after Taylor and Atkins had discovered ‘Helios’ - named after the Greek God of the sun - that, until that very moment, was the newly crowned record holder standing at a ‘mere’ 375 feet tall. 

Teaming up with long-time partners Steve Sillett, a professor of botany at Humboldt State University; Jim Spickler, a forest science researcher and consultant;  and biologist Marie Antoine, they set out to verify if in fact what their ground-based laser range finder measurements had suggested was in fact true. The team 
bushwhacked several miles carrying heavy packs laden with their ropes, harnesses and other tools of the trade before then climbing for several more hours to reach the apex of the Monarch. They then dropped a measuring tape and indeed confirmed that ‘Hyperion’ was the new record holder - Eureka!

‘Hyperion’ is an impressive specimen by any standard. The climbing team not only determined its height, officially 379.1 feet tall, but other dimensions as well. At over fifteen feet across at its base, and just under seven feet in diameter at the base of the live crown some two hundred feet off of the ground, the team eventually estimated that the total volume of this world record tree was eighteen thousand six hundred cubic feet. All signs indicate that this youngster is still growing and will continue to push the world record even higher for years to come. Barring damage from the occasional lightening strike or severe and windy storm it seems entirely possible that ‘Hyperion’ could someday hit the 400-foot mark.

‘Hyperion’ is growing on a slope, well above the nearest river with its permanent flow of water. This is generally an atypical location for the tallest coast redwood since so many of the previous record holders (less those unknown to us that were cut down before they could be measured) grow along rivers with their perennially wet and deep alluvial soils and open aspect to the sky.