One Square Inch of Silence, located in the Hoh Rain Forest of Olympic National Park in Washington State, is the quietest place in the Lower 48. This location is not truly silent—as the stream and calling birds in the recording below can attest—but it is free of anthropogenic, or human-generated, noise.
The park is home to one of the most pristine ecosystems in the contiguous United States, with more than 300 species of birds and 70 species of mammals. A variety of habitats, including alpine glaciers, rain forests, lakes and streams, and wilderness beach, "provide meaningful examples of soundscape beauty" worthy of enjoyment and preservation.
Acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton founded One Square Inch, a non-profit organization, to protect and manage the natural soundscape in Olympic National Park’s backcountry wilderness. Thanks to Gordon and One Square Inch, you can experience the wonders of One Square Inch of Silence in this recording, created exclusively for BirdNote listeners. “This recording demonstrates what we are giving up, not just for ourselves, but for future generations if we do not set aside a quiet place now,” says Gordon.
Gordon tells this story of the original stone that marked One Square Inch of Silence:
The stone pictured is the original one that was taken when the OSI site was vandalized years ago. Angered, I asked the quiet that surrounded me, “What is the answer?” That question was a reflection of my anger to "get even," or…. The quiet answered back, “What is the problem? Quiet still exists and are there not other stones all around you?” I let go of my anger entirely, simply picked up another stone, and hardly skipped a beat. Now we have a “Seeds of Quiet” program, and anyone may hike to the site with a small red stone that comes from outside the park and exchange it for the one that is there. This has become a powerful reminder to those who know what true natural quiet is. These stones sit now on dinner tables, work desks, and one is even in China educating children on the importance of listening to what the earth has to say.
Learn more about Gordon Hempton's personal journey - story on KOMO TV March, 2014.
BirdNote shows featuring recordings by Gordon Hempton.
Sounds from Gordon Hempton
Wetland forest bayou with birds and frogs
Western canyon, Boundary Waters, and Joyce Kilmer Memorial Grove, NC
Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Wambaw Swamp Wilderness, SC
Pounding surf … and gulls
Deciduous forest morning songbirds
Spring morning birdsong
Howling wind ambient
Windy day ambient and mountain stream
Rain and river sounds
Tropical forest ambient
Early summer bird ambience
Rain dripping on leaves