There are only a few places left in the United States where you can find natural silence.

Shhh! Can you be silent as you read this article? Like sure, only if you’re not reading out loud, then sure. But the environment around you won’t — people, vehicles, electronics, and all that urban decay of city bustle. The most endangered sound on Earth doesn’t mean it’s from an almost extinct species or an outdated form of music — it’s silence. Today, you might wonder where on Earth would you find total silence, if not at night, but the night has it’s woes, too. The Olympic National Park in Washington (not D.C) has such a natural state of calmness, free from all urban decay. Dear friends, welcome to Hoh River Valley.

Related media: Hiking The Hoh River Trail: Olympic National Park

One Square Inch Of Silence

The Hoh River Valley is located deep in Washington’s Olympic National Park, it’s accessible only after a 5-kilometer (3-mile) hike away from roads and the visitors’ center. Amidst moss-coated hardwoods, fern-covered forest floors, and small babbling brooks, is a small pebble atop a fallen log, which is probably the quietest place in the United States. The catch? It’s only one square inch, yes, a square inch. That’s quiet fair enough (pun intended).

Gordon Hempton, an acoustic ecologist, created this independent research project, One Square Inch of Silence; it relies on the concept that if one source of noise can permeate for meters into the environs, one black hole of silence can do the same thing, minimizing noise for meters around. In 2005, it was designated on Earth Day, where Hempton chose the park for its lack of roads and airplanes, also for natural diversity — beaches to deep rainforest to alpine glaciers can all be found in Washington’s Olympic Park. Sounds like a haven of natural sound.

Olympic National Park, Washington

Obviously, the spot is not completely designed to be silent. Rather, it focuses on cancelling out any unnatural sounds — vehicles, planes, (people), electronics — that urban bustle we talked about, by creating an environment natural sounds don’t get interfered. If you one day happen to be hiking here, you’d be able to hear the trickle of water running into the nearby river or birds flapping their wings without the interruption from sounds of machines, electronics, or other humans. Sounds serene!

The Noisy Influence Affecting You

Unfortunately, One Square Inch of Silence isn’t protected by the National Park Service, both federal and state laws. The U.S. military frequently flies training missions over the park, breaking the silent code. But Hempton hopes this experiment will pave the way for the protection and become a cost-effective method of soundscape management that the National Park Service and other environmental protection agencies can implement.

And also, minimizing unnatural noises does quite a lot than just a place for your relaxation. The increase of noise pollution has an impact on human health in several ways. Exposure to noise can increase your chances of cardiac related diseases such as strokes and damage the development of children’s reading abilities. For wildlife, noise pollution can result in hearing loss; the inability to hear important natural sounds like predators, and could eventually harm their natural instincts and behavioral changes.

And For Your Experience

According to Hempton, there are roughly between 10 and 12 places left in the United States where silence abounds naturally. Olympic National Park isn’t the only place on his list; he listed the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Haleakalā National Park in Minnesota and Hawaii as two others, respectively. For the rest, he opts to be silent for the sake of protection of their silence by not disclosing their identities.

By now, we guess you’re probably wondering what real silence is like. From the Hoh Rainforest Visitors’ Center in the Olympic National Park, you’d’ve to hike 5.6 kilometers (3.5 miles) along the Hoh River Trail, passing Mountain Tom Creek Meadows some 4.7 kilometers (2.9 miles), and over a series of boardwalks. You have to look out for a giant stilted Sitka Spruce with a hole wide enough to walk through. Head through the tree and to the left along a path through downed trees and mud. Look for the red rock sitting on a log. Just remember to be as silent as possible. Shhh!

Image credits: National Geographic

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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Sat, Mar 23, 2019.


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