SF Chronicle article
Continued from above and fellow amateur naturalist Michael Taylor were protected less than 30 years ago by an expansion of the national park's boundary.
Atkins and Taylor discovered Helios and Icarus on July 1 and Hyperion on Aug. 25. They took initial measurements with handheld lasers before returning with Steve Sillet, a Humboldt State University biologist known for his work on the ecosystems of ancient forest canopies, and Robert Van Pelt, a forest ecologist at the University of Washington. The foursome shot more measurements using a tripod-mounted laser fitted with a remote trigger designed to eliminate human-induced wobbles.
    Atkins said Hyperion soon will be measured again with a tripod laser or with a "tape drop" — in which someone climbs the tree and drops a measuring tape to the ground — before its record-breaking status is confirmed. Tape drops can't be conducted for at least two weeks because of National Park Service restrictions to protect the marbled murrelet, a small seabird that nests in old-growth redwoods.
    If and when the measurement on Hyperion is confirmed, it is likely to supplant the Stratosphere Giant in the Guinness Book of World Records.
    To change the record, the tree's dimensions must be sent to Guinness, which will forward the information to its record verification department in the United Kingdom. It could take several weeks to confirm the new record, Guinness 1 spokeswoman Kristen Opalach said.
    George Koch, a biology professor at Northern Arizona University who specializes in plant eco-physiology, called the find incredibly exciting.
    "With so much of the old-growth redwoods gone — more than 90 percent — you wouldn't ' necessarily expect a discovery like this," he said.
    The find is all the more remarkable, Koch said, because the trees are in a tract added to the park belatedly, during President Jimmy Carter's administration.
    "They aren't all that far from an old clear-cut," he said. "Basically, they were almost nuked. The fact that they weren't is amazing."
Koch said the trees are also noteworthy for their location. It had long been assumed, he said, that very tall redwoods favor creek bottoms where rich, alluvial soils and abundant water allow for extravagant growth. The newly discovered trees live on slopes.
    "It seems that they were close to tributary stream courses, however, so they probably were able to keep their feet wet," he said.
Atkins confirmed that all three of the trees were adjacent to creeks or springs.
    "Even though they're on steep slopes, they're growing in the finest redwood habitat on the planet," Atkins said. "They're right below a ridge, so they're protected from the wind. They're near abundant water, and they have plenty of fog, which keeps the local microclimate mild and moist. And they have great sun exposure."
    The tree's precise location has not been revealed and probably won't be. The Stratosphere Giant's location is generally referred to as the Rockefeller Forest.
    Rick Nolan, the acting superintendent of Redwood National Park, said it would be nearly impossible for visitors to find the trees. Unlike isolated giant sequoias, including one in Sequoia National Park that holds the record as the world's most massive tree, coast redwoods grow together.
    "From the visitors' perspective, it's important to understand that if they come looking for the biggest tree, they're not going to find it," Nolan said. "They're consumed by the rest of the forest."
    Reaching the back country is difficult. Atkins said he takes heavy gear, including the laser tripod, over steep slopes, over downed trees and through thick vegetation.
    "Bushwhacking in that kind of country is kind of like climbing Everest at 28,000 feet," he said. Reaching the record-breaking trees "isn't a pleasure hike."