He needed a chronology and the trees seemed ideally suited to his needs.
Barely a decade before, Edmund Schulman, the first dendrochronologist at the UA’s then-new tree-ring lab, had revealed to the scientific world evidence that bristlecones could live longer than anyone had imagined: 3,000 years, 4,000 years, maybe 5,000 years.
The trunks twist and undulate as they reach arthritic arms toward light and air. He scouted the side of Wheeler Peak until he found the right tree.
WPN-114, he would write later, had a dead crown 17 feet high and a living shoot 11 feet high.
His work opened a door into the past and to the cold, arid ranges of the Great Basin.
That is, in essence, a study of a tree’s time as a tree. The tree seemed common enough, the district ranger concluded.
They don’t talk much about “Prometheus” and, although the three boxes are marked “Currey Tree,” for Donald Currey, the graduate student who cut the bristlecone down, the preferred name is its specimen reference, WPN-114.“Currey was not a dendrochronologist,” said Chris Baison, one of the scientists who helped determine the age of the tree. That’s not what we do here.”What they do at the lab is dendrochronology.
That is, in essence, a study of a tree’s time as a tree.
At 18 inches off the ground, its circumference was 252 inches.
The south side had eroded to the core, but the pine was clearly big enough to yield samples.