The underwater forests of the world are waiting to be harvested. When massive hydroelectric dams are created, huge areas of forest are often flooded, submerging habitats and displacing whatever human communities happened to call that place home. But the forests that become part of the underwater landscape can be well preserved for decades, and are still viable stocks of timber.
Harvesting underwater lumber from rivers and man-made lakes is not a brand new idea, but Triton Logging Co., the "underwater harvesting specialist", has a bit of an edge. The Sawfish is a 7,000 lb, unmanned logging submarine that is remotely controlled from the surface. The robotic lumberjack latches onto the trunk of a submerged tree, attaches inflatable airbags to the trunk, deploys its chainsaw, and then releases the tree to float up to the surface.
The Sawfish is powered by electric motors, sports eight video camera eyes as well as sonar, and uses "biodegradable and vegetable oil-based hydraulic fluids." Triton estimates that British Colombia alone has five billion board feet of salvageable lumber submerged underwater and that the number could exceed 100 billion board feet worldwide. The estimated value of these some odd 300 million submerged trees is $50 billion.
Submerged timber harvested by Triton is all certified as SmartWood Rediscovered by the Rainforest Alliance. According to BuildingGreen, Triton harvests Douglas fir, western white pine, lodgepole pine, and hemlock year round in British Colombia. Triton's Sawfish is one of BuildingGreen's top ten green building products for 2006.