To the first or casual observer, this island sitting out in the ocean seems normal, if not heavily covered with lush trees and foliage. To those who have extensive nautical experience know something is amiss, especially since the island is never in the same place twice.
To most, the description of this island is the same as any other island in a warm water environment. It has tall fruit growing trees, lush grass and thick bushes. Birds seemed to have taken a liking to the trees long ago as the trees are filled to the brim with the chirps, caws, and cackles of various birds.
A sickly sweet fruit, similar to an apple, grows in abundance here which has drawn large clouds of fruit eating insects, both the flying and crawling kind. To this end the birds have a near never ending supply of food. As well as sport, as they dart through the boughs of the trees snapping up winged food, or pouncing on an unsuspecting insect crawling across the ground to a dropped morsel.
The insects eat the fruits, which in turn the birds eat the insects. Their droppings have piled up over the years and have fertilized the ground in such a way that the harsh salted spray of the ocean has not harmed the flora at all. In fact through the years this abundant fertilizer has given the flora a resistance to this salt saturation and has been able to thrive off of it quite well.
The island itself is unique, not just in its balanced eco-system but in the fact that it has no real land to call its own. The island started out centuries ago as a floating pile of trees, sent adrift by some torrential storm that rocked the coast of some unknown land. These trees, bundled together as they were, drew other minor plant life, as well as a resting place for migrant birds as they traveled the hemispheres during climate changes. With the build up of the droppings and the left over from these birds, as they left pieces of fish and other animals not consumed, the trees began to sprout and grow other forms of plants.
Over time small sapling began growing on this slowly expanding pile of trees, mostly red buckey and white fringetree. Later, as these saplings grew and their roots spread creating more and more space for the plant life to grow, more trees began sprouting. With the growth of these new trees, some of which bore small fruits, more and more birds began flocking to this ever expanding island of sanctuary. Since it had no anchorage, it floated past many coastlines, picking up insects and other seeds from nearby coastlines.
The root system has evolved into an intertwining mass that not only keeps it afloat but also creates a mass thick enough for walking on. The trees themselves have undergone some huge leaps in their growth of evolution. While not harmed by the salt in the ocean waters, they still do not absorb it into their root system. Instead their thick roots have grown hard with stringers of fan like filaments attached to them. These filaments filter the salt from the water before pulling the water into the root system. This can be seen by a constant white foam surrounding the island at all times.
It has continued to grow over these many years from a simple grouping of torn down trees, into an island that has a trunk and root system almost a two miles long and sturdy enough for those who take anchorage or the unfortunate to ship wreak on it, to walk around with little problems. Uneven footing is one problem that plays victim to unsuspecting travelers as well as hidden sink holes. In some places where the root system has grown, it has left small gaps in the grown land. The foliage has grown over these holes and made it appear as the surrounding landscape but in fact is like quicksand.
An unsuspecting traveler steps on one of these covered holes and falls into the water below, which could be three feet or fifteen feet depending on the location in the island. Most of the time this isn't a problem and the fallen can climb back up, bruised, wet, and embarrassed. However, in some instances the fall pushes them under the water and the root system prevents them from climbing out. So they must swim out from under the island. Few make it.
Ship wrecks have left small pockets of animal life on the island, obviously birds, a few snakes, boar and pig mainly, and a group of large lizard-like animal similar to an iguana but larger. The snakes feed off of the bird eggs, the boar and pigs feed off of the foliage and fruits that drop to the ground, and the lizards eat mainly insects but small birds, baby snakes, and even a few of the piglets have been seen to be fair game.
Trees that are supported now are a mix of apple and a pear like fruit tree. It is a sickly sweet tasting but very nutritious. Also, a small orange type fruit that has a thick skin and meaty center grows here, as well as buds bright pink and white flowers in certain waters. White ash, as well as a few maples and the ever present white fringetree and red buckey, are among the more common tree types. The inner trees are the largest, some being a good five to six feet around. The root system underneath has grown out and down as the trees grow up to keep it balanced and floating. In turbulent waters the flotilla of trees seems to weather rather well and has never been seen or known to topple. Think of an iceberg made of wood.
In recent history, roughly the past two decades, a group of buccaneers have used the island as a mobile base of operations using it to store some of their stolen prizes and hide after a recent scuffle with authorities. Small wooden shacks have been built from driftwood and parts of destroyed rafts inland. Never has anyone cut down a tree of the island, fearing it would destroy the magical beauty and the very thing that holds it together.
They were able to develop a water sifting process that uses the filaments from the end of the tree roots that sit below the water. By fashioning bowls from these filaments and suspending them over another bucket or bowl. Water is able to be poured through the bowl made of filaments thereby pulling the impurities from the water making it drinkable.
The bowls of filaments however are only good for a short time and the water must be poured through them three or four times before all the impurities are gone. Roughly three gallons of water can be made drinkable by one of these sifting bowls. However, even though the water is made drinkable, it still has a tangy flavor that tarts the tongue until one gets used to it. It isn't the best tasting, but it will keep someone alive when they need water.
Eventually however, the pirates were followed to the island and their ships were fired on and destroyed before they could make port. Few have willingly traveled to this roving island, unless they are searching for the treasure left by the occupants not but a few years before. Roughly twelve small single room shacks were erected toward the middle of the island and still stand to this day.
This of course is not a very practical island but I have tried to explain its birth in a semi-realistic manner. Regardless that this is fantasy I have tried to make it as believable as possible. I realize this may be seen as unrealistic but its fantasy so take it as such. Not everything has to work with real world physics.
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? Responses (13)-14
The island name is in homage to Steve Erikson... you know who you are...
'Woodberg dead ahead, sir!'
Not the sort of nautical hazard one would expect.
Collisions with other land masses would be likely to either break off fragments (which might survive to eventually grow into islands of their own) or cause it to eventually append itself to the other land. Because of this, a stable 'floating tree island' would be most likely found in a 'sargasso' area, where the wind and currents would tend to keep it from drifting away.
As the island was inhabited by pirates, it would either have some sort of natural catchbasins for fresh water, or might have the remnants of the pirates' efforts to catch and save rainwater. Bird droppings may have fouled the water supply with disease, posing a hidden threat to unwary mariners.
Updated to clarify some of that which was left out. Thanks Wulfhere.
I really like this island-it's very orginal.
Good semi-solid Island.
Since they tolerate salt water they would be extremely useful to some people. Someone might even use them for desalination purposes :)
Darwin we salute you. *drinks*
Love this one. It is a nice neutral sort of setting with dozens of applications. People will be searching for it, looking for the plants or just to prove it exists. People will run into it. People will hear legends of it. It could explain how some terrible villian survivies lost at see for two years. Good things.
Physics is not any challenge here, biology perhaps. But there sure are plants tolarating high salt contents, mangroves and the like. So this whole location is not impossible, even in a non-fantasy world. It would be interesting to explore the whole ecosystem that must exist here, particularly below the water-level - tree-roots mixing with sea plants, and fishes finding their home among them.
Long term, the island will need to get rid of one particular threat: corals. Corals will settle down on it, and grow slowly, making the island heavier over time, sinking it or forcing to become a real island, locked to one place.
Aside of this, in a fantasy setting you could claim that magic empowers the place - perhaps a rare item of powers of nature was stuck in the initial small heap, and its emanations helped it to grow.
Whether this is true or not, someone will inevitably come with such a hypothesis - and will want to find the island, and dig it through for the magical dingus. Enter the PCs.
To sum it up, is a thought-provoking submission, which is only to the good. Great work, Mourngrymn!
I hadn't thought of the coral factor... interesting. I'll have to create something to keeps these things off of it...
that was me ^
I could actually see this woodburg grounding against a sandbar or coral atoll and becoming a stationary island with a hidden maze of water pockets and channels through the root system and the top of the coral. Could make for some interesting and potentially deadly dungeoneering with hostile merfolk in a twilight realm of coral and mangrove like roots.
A really good random encounter or quest. Truckloads of potential for play!
Regarding the Coral, the island plants could concievably excrete a highly acidic substance (eg: every night, due to lack of sunlight, the trees respire normally and give of acidic co2) to dissolve the coral. This would then also mean that the animals and people wanting to stay here would have to sleep in the trees, otherwise their feet would be attacked by the acidity of the water. This in turn would also mean that every morning, every pond on the island would be filled with dead fishes (fishes would naturaly come to such an island every day, and only a handful, trapped in the roots and seaweed, would die during the secretion, the others swimming away), allowing the ecosystem to exist.
The weather and temperature would also have a significant effect on the island's size, shape and buyoancy, perhaps having some seriously weird effect in heavy seas...
(aside: in 'The life of Pi' by Yann Martel, chapter 92, such an island is described quite vividly... ISBN:1 84195 392 x)
Wow, even gave an ISBN number. Now that is a contribution. Thanks dark dragon, your ideas have sounding merit.
Splendid island and great idea expanding comments. Erikson is the man, you have good taste Mourn.
I'm sorry I missed this back then, welcome back!