Tag Archive: Hoh Rain Forest

The rare peace that only silence can offer

Photo credit: Tom Collins licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Meghan O’Rourke has written an exquisite piece about the curative powers of silence in “Lessons in Stillness From One of the Quietest Places on Earth.”

Dealing with a new baby, a long illness, and a sick father left O’Rourke “exhausted, unwell and snappish.”  So at her husband’s urging she flew to Seattle alone and wandered into the Hoh Rain Forest, “one of the quietest places in the U.S.” And what follows is her poetic ode to that forest, her appreciation of its “cathedral stillness,” and her discovery of that which she was searching for: “a willful silence.”

Here’s a little taste of what it’s like to escape city noise and enter the silent world Ms. O’Rourke experienced:

O’Rourke’s story is in T Magazine’s November 12th Travel issue, which features the Hoh Rain Forest.

Where Is the Quietest Square Inch in the U.S.?

According to an acoustic ecologist, the country’s quietest spot is in a corner of Washington State.

It was clear that the answer would not be any inhabited place in the U.S., and certainly not any city.  In fact, the author notes that:

Many of you may live close enough to expanses of nature to have a sense of quiet – but few places are completely immune.  Air traffic is hard to escape, and by some accounts, noise pollution affects more than 88 percent of the contiguous United States.

The article focuses on the work of Gordon Hempton, “an acoustic ecologist who has spent more than 30 years studying the quietest places in the country – not places free of sound, but free of man-made noises.”   He has determined that the quietest square inch of nature in the U.S. can be found at Hoh Rain Forest at Olympic National Park in Washington State “on top of a moss-covered log at 47° 51.959N, 123° 52.221W.”  Why focus on this one square inch?  Because, as Hempton explains, “man-made noises can be heard from 20 miles away.  So in fact, by protecting an inch, he says, it’s really preserving 1,000 square miles of silence.”

Click the link to learn about One Square Inch, A Sanctuary for Silence at Olympic National Park.

For more on Gordon Hempton and his life’s work: Soundtracker the Movie.