Ghost Trees was a site-specific artwork installed in Middle Dock, Canary Wharf, London
Docklands for Winter Lights 2021. The light sculpture, comprising of illuminated tree rings
immersed deep in the Thames water, drew attention to the possibility of an extraordinary
When the East India docks were constructed in 1790 evidence was found of the remains
of a great subterranean forest in a state of preservation the trees were not scattered or
dispersed but lay in regular order. Curiously the tops of the trees were all turned southward
as if they had been swept by some great convulsion of nature coming from the north.
from Peter Ackroyd’s book Thames - Sacred River:
Peter Ackroyd continues:
Other drowned forests, dating from the end of the last period of glaciation, have also been
discovered at Grays, at West Thurrock and at Sheerness. Pepys noted in September 1665
that it at Blackwall ‘in digging the late docke, they did twelve feet underground find
perfect trees over-covered with earth, nut trees with branches and the very nuts upon
them’. The stretch of river by Stoneness Lighthouse is known as ‘The Roots’ because of the
submerged forest within it. At Southwark have been found yew and alder that flourished
some five thousand years ago. The workmen at Sheerness had to burn their way through
trunks and thickets in direct contact with pre-history. The Thames is a river of trees….
Since Ackroyd’s book was first published there have been further discoveries that might well
relate to the event - from Wikipedia:
‘ A recent hypothesis suggests that much of the remaining coastal [remains of Doggerland
after warming climate melted glaciers] land was flooded by a mega-tsunami around 6200 BC,
caused by a submarine landslide off the coast of Norway, known as the Storegga Slide.
I perhaps jumped the gun in supposing that the tsunami would have affected London and the
East Anglian coast-line. I became really obsessed with it - perhaps I was thinking abou the
likelypossibilty of what the future holds with rising sea levels and coastal cities. I contacted
experts at The Museum of London, who kindly put me straight - that there was no evidence
that the tsunami ever struck London. I went on to verify the Pepy's account and indeed it was
there - so I still wonder what that was about. I found loads of accounts, through the kind help of
The Docklands Museum, of accounts of sunken trees all around the Thames Estuary and
Essex. In fact the man who helped install the artwork, a Thames waterman of two generations
now a builder, told me he'd often seentree-trucks sticking out of the mud. One account from
the periodical Port of London AuthorityMonthly 1957 commented on how river workers often
used them to moor their boats and commonly reffered to them as 'moorlogs'