This past weekend, my brother and I escaped for an overnight backpacking trip in that rare gem, Olympic National Park. We saw scarcely another soul, but throughout the trip there was evidence that human civilization persisted: the sound of aircraft overhead. Not loud. But often enough that we remarked on it.
So it was apropos that this morning I discovered an article about a project called One Square Inch of Silence, which takes place in the Olympics. It’s the work of an “acoustic ecologist” (who knew there is such a thing?) named Gordon Hempton.
To make a long story short:
“I’ve circled the globe three times in pursuing silent places,” he said. “Olympic National Park is the most sonically diverse, and is the national park that has the longest periods of natural quiet that I have observed.”
On a recent hike, Hempton stopped along the trail at various times, holding up his sound level meter. At one spot, the decibel level was so low—just 26 decibels—that he observed, “Probably the loudest sound was a few drops of the alder leaves back there.”
Hempton takes his project so seriously that he actually designated a spot—a square inch to be precise—that is truly quiet. I think that’s pretty cool.
The place Hempton designated is, apparently, in a part of the park that’s mostly undisturbed by the distant roar of jet engines. It’s the sort of place that I suspect many of us would benefit from getting to know, silently.
Want to find that square inch? Read all about it on his website, here.
(The backpacking trip was grand—thanks for asking. Nothing but crisp autumn sunshine and bears working their way through salal bushes in anticipation of their long nap.)