Tag Archive: Olympic National Park

Military jets are damaging the quietest region in the U.S.

Photo credit: AvgeekJoe licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

The Olympic National Park in Washington State is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it welcomes more than three million visitors a year to enjoy what Gordon Hempton has identified as “One Square Inch of Silence.” Today this “quietest place in US” is being overwhelmed with military aircraft noise according to a study published by Lauren Kuehne and Julian Olden. Diane Urbani de la Paz, Peninsula Daily News, reports that Kuehne and Olden monitored military flights over three sites in the park which included the “most quiet rainforest and region in the U.S.” and found that at times the sound levels “registered at 80 decibels or more.” Olden believes that this deafening noise will adversely affect the wildlife of the park and deter people from visiting this park.

Concerned that the quiet soundscape of the Olympic Peninsula is being overwhelmed by noise, Kuehne informed me that she shared the data of her study with the Navy, hoping that the Navy would consider moving its aircraft training away from the Olympic Peninsula and to a region that would not adversely affect people or quiet parks with overhead aircraft noise. I responded that studies such as hers will put greater pressure on the military and the airline industry in general to explore ways to lessen the impacts of aircraft noise.

Kuehne also told me that she is working with Gordon Hempton, co-founder of Quiet Parks International, an organization dedicated to preserving quiet which, of course, includes protecting our national parks. I, too, am part of Hempton’s organization, serving as an advisor, and urge readers to advocate for the protection of our beautiful, quiet national parks.

Dr. Arline Bronzaft is a researcher, writer, and consultant on the adverse effects of noise on mental and physical health. She is co-author of “Why Noise Matters,” author of “Listen to the Raindrops” (children’s book illustrated by Steven Parton), and has written extensively about noise in books, encyclopedias, academic journals, and the popular press.  In addition, she is a Professor Emerita of the City University of New York and Board member of GrowNYC.

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.