People climbed trees for a number of reasons:

  • To catch possums, lizards, snakes and other native animals. (These animals were also removed from trees by lighting a fire below and smoking them out, and by throwing stones at the animal, knocking it out of the tree.)
  • To collect eggs and young birds from nests.
  • To collect fruit and seeds from high branches.
  • To reach native beehives for honey and wax. Beeswax was used as a seal on water containers, as a resin when making weapons, and as a fixative when making body decorations. (People didn’t always climb trees to obtain honey. Sometimes they chopped the whole tree down instead. Also, some species of native bee make hives at ground level.)
  • To chop and strip long sheets of bark to be used for canoe-making and shelters.

Throughout much of Australia, a small hatchet with a stone head was used to cut toe holds into trees to assist in climbing. In these photos, taken in the rainforests of northern Queensland, strong jungle vines (lawyer-vines or lawyer-cane) are used like ropes to assist climbing trees in search of both animals and native bee hives’ wax and honey.

Photo of a man about to walk up a Eucalyptus tree. Cedar Creek.

A man about to walk up a Eucalyptus tree. Cedar Creek.

Climbing with the use of a vine, he makes his way up the tree.

Now he is resting on the trunk of the tree. To do this, he winds the vine around his right knee to hold himself up, and secures the end of the vine with his big toe.

Using a vine like a rope, this man climbs an enormous Eucalypt tree to reach animals and bush honey. Cairns.