Last winter an ex-Navy diver, who had begun "Lake Logging" in northern Maine, contacted me. I had read about such operations plus I am always curious about potential sources of outrageous woods. Therefore, after he sent me some hardwood samples, we agreed to meet in July.
I was amazed to learn how simple it is to raise logs from the bottom of a lake. Indeed, the most complicated part is obtaining the necessary permits. This particular two-man operation uses two boats: a party barge serves as the dive platform and a powerful diesel launch "yards" the logs. The diver in wetsuit and flippers wears a full mask, which receives air from a tank on deck and also allows two-way radio contact. Tethered to the barge, the diver descends to the bottom and walks in a big circle looking for logs in the clear and very cold water. If he finds a good one, he pulls out a hammer, taps, and starts two eyebolts, and tightens them with a screwdriver. He then attaches a carabineer with a floating line to mark the log's location. So far, most logs have been about 24' long. To raise the logs, he simply goes topside for an air hose and float bag. He swims back down, attaches the bag, and inflates it from a compressor running above. The log then surfaces like a slow moving pilot whale.
The vote, however, is still out on Lake Logs. Besides the hefty price tag, there are many question marks. For example, just because they are old logs that sank many years ago on spring drives; it doesn't mean they are good logs. The logs these divers were reclaiming were felled by both axe and cross cut saw. This means they date from 1850 and later; if felled totally by axe, then they would be pre-1850. Most are very slow growth but without cutting off a fresh section, you can't tell much. Many could be stained or discolored already, and there is a huge chance of staining if not sawn very quickly after removing them from the lake. There may be some disagreeable odor and also some kiln drying complications…yet, if we could find some very heavily figured-clear-wide hard maple with 30 rings or more to the inch…. now that would be something!!