Dang, another one of those thousands-of-years-of-life-about-to-end tales. This one is about the venerable bristlecone pines of high Colorado California. They’ve evolved to withstand almost every harsh condition there is, dating back to before the time of Alexander the Great, but not the kind of crap our own era puts out. It looks like a double whammy of white pine blister rust from Asia and the same mountain pine beetle that used to be kept in check by winter cold but with global warming has been free to torch huge swaths of British Columbian forests.
Amid the NYTimes story comes this curious tidbit of grad school shenanigans. Imagine having your bonehead mistake remembered, in print, 46 years later. Donald Rusk Curry, did you remember to say you’re sorry?
The oldest tree here is more than 3,000 years old. This grove was once home to the oldest known bristlecone, Prometheus, but in 1964, a graduate student named Donald Rusk Currey was studying tree ring data and got his drill bit stuck in the tree. He cut it down to fetch his tool. Later, when he counted the rings, he found the tree was at least 4,900 years old.
UPDATE: Thanks to an alert reader named Darren for the following correction.
Your report on Methuselah is incorrect.
And no need to say “so long” to Methuselah, as it was Prometheus (on the slopes of Wheeler Peak in Nevada) that was chopped down by Donald Curry. Methuselah is alive and well in the Schulman Grove of the White Mountains of California.