Huge Offset Side Branches Serve as Mass Dampers To Help Hyperion Redwood Grow Very Tall Without Wind Breakage

1      Structure of Hyperion Redwood


The overall structure of Hyperion redwood is well detailed in this excellent redwoods study (as SESE 49 in Appendix K):

How do tree structure and old age affect growth potential of California redwoods?

Stephen C. Sillett, Robert Van Pelt, Allyson L. Carroll, Russell D. Kramer, Anthony R. Ambrose, D’Arcy Trask

Ecological Monographs 2015 Vol: 85 (2) :181-212.
doi: 10.1890/14-1016.1

I use this study for some reference information but what follows are my own independent analyses and ideas.

Hyperion has a very unusual feature versus other very tall redwoods in the study.  About 30 meters up on the tree there are two huge branches that grow out from the trunk at near 90 degree angles for a couple meters and then turn straight upwards for twenty or so meters.  Both these branches are on the same side of the trunk and together weigh about 5,000 kg.

Hyperion has a volume of 550 cubic meters, of which about 140 cubic meters are above the huge branches growing out from the trunk thirty meters up.  The 140 cubic meters of volume has a total weight of about 55,000 kilograms (based on Hyperion’s total mass of 210 Mg and total volume of 550 cubic meters).

Therefore the upper 85 meters of Hyperion can be viewed as a 55,000 kg object with 5,000 kg of weight offset from but connected to the base.


2      Mass Dampers


Mass dampers are used in construction and design to help stabilize vibration from external forces.  For example very tall buildings will employ mass dampers to reduce sway so people do not feel sea sick in high winds as the top of the building sways.   Dampers are also used in automotive engines to reduce vibration.

Mass dampers add cost and complexity to structure design, and there is a trade off in materials and methods used in vibration dampening versus actual benefit.

As a result typical mass dampers are set up in a counterbalance system where the damper is about 10 percent of the mass of the object being dampened.  This then reduces vibration at the radial end of the vibrating object by about forty percent.

For more information see Wikipedia article on Tuned mass dampers.


3      Hyperion And Its Built In Mass Damper


Reviewing the redwood diagrams it is evident Hyperion redwood has very little breakage in its crown for such an old and tall redwood tree (1260 years old, 116 meters height).  There is no breakage in the top part of the crown, this is one reason why Hyperion has its great height.  Great location, great soil, nightly fog, and tucked into a valley for wind protection.

But Hyperion has something else going for it.  Those big side branches 30 meters up, with combined weight at ten percent of the trunk weight above them, serve as tuned mass dampers to reduce crown sway in high winds by about fifty percent.   The unique structure of Hyperion has contributed to wind breakage suppression, allowing Hyperion to grow very tall without interruption.

Thanks for reading.

Looking up Hyperion’s trunk from uphill side.  Hyperion’s large , low side branches are not shown in this photo.

Letter from Mario Vaden

This is a letter I received from Mario Vaden, published with his permission.

Hello Mark.

Feel free to share this note. It relates to a website that has correctly and incorrectly posted redwood locations, including a few from past research. And I understand that my may be getting some “flack” from people who (incorrectly) imagine you are tied to it. The anonymous site could be illegitimate if a fake name was used to purchase hosting. But either way, it remains anonymous.  Anyhow, here are a few thoughts.

There have only been two people (we know of) that I ever thought had the skill set and time to slap together all the content. I never concluded they did it.  They had the ability and proximity, but most everything else indicates no involvement, especially their fondness for the finer aspects of nature..

If anyone thinks you were behind it, that’s ridiculous. It would take corrupt logic or emotion to reach that conclusion. Lack of proximity alone means you could not compile that stuff. The photos and redwoods and paragraphs appeared at a pace that required  nearly weekly or monthly visits to the parks. You live so far away in Illinois, there’s not a chance you could have done one-tenth of it. The pattern of progress basically proved it was someone along the redwood coast, or in similar driving distance. Anyone who does not realize that aspect alone, has holes in their head like Swiss cheese, to think otherwise.

It wouldn’t even matter whether or not you had skills to tweak code or capture images.  You probably don’t but the conversation ended  long before that thought. Lack of proximity and access rule-you-out … easily.

Maybe I had an advantage. There’s several I know were not involved, like yourself, Michael, the other Steve, Zane, etc.. But I had a long ongoing relationships and conversations with all of you, for years. And the degree of interaction I had with each of you, none of you had the same with each other.  And honestly, out of every one of them (us), I think you put more effort in to unearth who was behind all of it, and hopefully reverse it. Plus, you even donated more than anyone initially toward signs to help the parks diminish wear in the grove of titans. While others were running around in circles reaching no productive conclusion, at least you made tangible progress.

Anyhow, the reason for this, is to express that if anyone thinks you were blabbing locations to the world, that boils down to a lack of thinking and series of brain-farts.

FWIW … I was surprised when one of the “tree community” suspected it was me for a while. The mere mention sounded insane when I first learned.  But it became apparent they did not begin, or arrive at the false suspicions on their own. There must be others spreading, sowing or growing confusion for that to happen. And it only happens when people elevate imagination over fact and reason.

So … on that note, looking forward to another great hike or bushwhack next June of July.



Mario Vaden


Reply to Mario from Mark Graham

Thanks Mario.

I myself have pointed a finger at others, incorrectly as it turns out, so I guess it was my turn under the microscope.

I don’t have any association with the web site of concern, and have posted a sworn statement on this web site to affirm.


Humboldt Redwoods State Park – 1,000 100 Meter Redwoods

1      100 Meter Redwoods


What sets coast redwoods apart from other tree species is their great height.   It is the only species with extant trees over 100 meters in height, and there are 3,000 – 5,000 such redwood trees.  And around 1,000 of these trees are in Humboldt Redwoods State Park (HRSP).

The 100 meter redwoods in HRSP are of course concentrated along Bull Creek and nearby Eel River groves.  But surprisingly there are 100 meter redwoods in many areas of Humboldt, from the very northernmost area to the very southernmost area.

A 2014 Eel River LiDAR survey generated point cloud data which can be used to determine tree height by subtracting ground heights from first return heights.  There is existing software with built in functions to do the heavy lifting.  The point cloud data was recently put on the Open Topography Portal.  I went ahead and downloaded twenty of so subsections of this point cloud data and reviewed tree height in the groves along the Eel River and Eel River south fork.

As part of the review derivative maps were created which profile the canopy by height.  For example, this is the road going into Founders Grove from the Avenue of the Giants.  The purple indicates 100-105 meters in height.  You can see there is a 100 + meter tree at the entrance, then another taller one on the right side of the road right where the parking lot starts.  So this level of specificity can be reviewed throughout the park.

Founders Grove entrance canopy map


This table is a tall tree recap of the areas of Humboldt Redwoods included in the 2014 LiDAR survey.  Most have 100 meter trees, some quite a few.  I also included a column for the number of trees between 90 and 100 meters.  To do this work I just counted  crowns by height band on the derivative height maps I created.  The counts are approximately right but I am sure could be off by a little bit (but not by much).

Eel River Corridor HRSP Tall Tree Summary


Rather than showing the derivative maps I made four overview maps of Humboldt Redwoods.  I hope you enjoy them, they provide a good general overview of where the tall trees are.

2      North End – Pepperwood Area


The Pepperwood area has a few 100 meter trees, including one that is quite tall.

HRSP North Areas with Tall Trees


3      Core Area


Most of the tall trees in Humboldt are along Bull Creek or in the river groves near the Bull Creek outflow.  Although Bull Creek was not included in the 2014 LiDAR survey, there are other sources for that area with partial information.   So the counts for Bull Creek are estimates.  There are also quite a few tall trees along the river south of Bull Creek.  Then Founders Grove, Rockefeller Loop, and Federation Grove have many tall trees.

HRSP Core Areas with Tall Trees



4     Burlington to Canoe Creek to Great Peninsula


Here there is a large cluster of tall trees along the Canoe Creek bend and along Canoe Creek itself

HRSP South Areas with Tall Trees


5      Phillipsville Area


Here way at the south end of the Avenue there are still a few tall trees.   Also not shown is the Redway area, where there is one 100 meter plus tree.

HRSP Phillipsville Area Tall Trees



Doing these maps has me interested in visiting some areas of Humboldt I have not been to.  One trail in particular is the River Trail from Bull Creek south to the Garden Club Grove.  It is supposed to be very scenic.

Thanks for reading.