Renowned acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton has declared that there are only, at most, 12 places in the US where one can go without hearing any human caused noise. Hempton records soundscapes and has travelled across the world three separate times to capture the sounds and rhythms of nature.
Hempton lives in the Northwestern part of Washington state, very near to Olympic National Park. His work includes the documentary Soundtracker: A Portrait of Gordon Hempton, more than 50 soundscape albums available for download on iTunes, an adventurous and brave narrative entitled One Square Inch of Silence, and many other interviews and lectures.
Hempton’s passion is to record and find places that are quiet. The quiet which he sets out to capture is not silence, as some might assume, but rather the quiet that is created by the sound of pure nature, void of any and all manmade noise. Hempton considers a location to be quiet if he can listen to the sounds of nature without any manmade interruptions for 15 minutes. His work has caused him to state that there may only be twelve of these quiet places left in the continental United States, although ten is the more likely number.
Hempton will only reveal three locations where one can find absolute quiet. He names The Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park (ironically, near his own home), Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota, and Haleakala National Park in Hawaii. He believes anonymity to be the only power at his disposal to ensure the preservation of the remaining locations, thus the rest are known only to Hempton.
Anyone who has spent time completely engrossed by nature knows that it creates an inimitable feeling of both comfort and transcendence. A feeling that you are part of something much larger than yourself. The prospect that humanity may destroy all places where the pure sound of nature can be experienced is frightening.
The destruction of quiet places is yet another tragedy to add to the bucket list of anthropomorphically caused environmental problems. But we must not grow indifferent in the face of mounting adversities. We must have faith and proceed with a critical and hopeful view of our actions and our world.