Copyright 2011 by Mario Vaden
Chris Atkins is a man known by many who appreciate tallest trees, as the discoverer of Stratosphere Giant (2000) and co-discoverer of Hyperion, Helios and Icarus (all 3 in 2006). Four conifers with the tallest known tops on the face of the planet.
Among those who have explored with him, he is known as one of the best in the world at measuring. Here is a quote that canopy scientist Prof. Sillett had put (2010) on his site's collaborator section about Chris:
"Chris Atkins is a tall tree expert who has found and measured most of the super-tall Sequoia, Sequoiadendron, Pseudotsuga, and Picea discovered since 2000. He is a world-class surveyor whose ground-based measurements of tree height often agree with my direct tape measurements to within 1 cm"
Chris Atkins was also a character of the book (2007) The Wild Trees, by author Richard Preston. The narrative builds to a crescendo, where Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor discover the tallest redwood, Hyperion.
The super tall redwoods and other species he found, provided more than mere discoveries or a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. The measurements and experience have helped generate more public interest in forests, plus boosted data for canopy research.
From a August 2007 metroactive.com article: Santa Rosa amateur naturalist Chris Atkins first visited the redwoods in the 1980s. "I was in awe of their size, their beauty and their longevity," Atkins says. He found himself drawn back to redwood country again and again. In time, Atkins teamed up with Michael Taylor, who shared his craving for fresh air and biological extremes. Eventually, Atkins and Taylor blew $3,000 apiece on high-end laser range-finders.
Chris does not compromise quality when it comes to measuring. He does not simply want a window through the canopy that he can aim through, but prefers one which can last for years in case he needs to return. He double and triple checks tripod legs and fasteners. And he will sit and wait for 20 minutes until the wind subsides and the tops quit swaying. The measurements are repeated, and he uses a cable to avoid slight movement of the laser rangefinder. Its precision all the way.
Few people can keep track of a redwood top like Chris. Sometimes he needs to go up a slope or meander through the forest to get a better window to aim through. Even though the top he will measure repeatedly vanishes out of sight, he's still able to pin-point his target.
Image: Stratosphere Giant shown 2008, discovered by Atkins in 2000.