Tag Archive: quiet spaces

Looking for a quiet space? Here are some worth visiting

Photo credit: Lukas Hartmann from Pexels

by David M. Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition

If you’ve been looking for a truly quiet space to visit, consider Green Bank, West Virginia, where there’s no WiFi, no cellphone service, no microwave ovens or any other device that generates electromagnetic signals. Known as a National Radio Quiet Zone, it consists of 13,000 square miles of mountainous terrain set aside to protect the Green Bank Observatory, a cluster of radio telescopes.

Have you heard about International Dark Sky Places? The first one in the U.S. is a 1400-square-mile spot in Central Idaho where there’s no artificial light. According to this author, “[t]here are currently 37 official dark sky parks in the United States, 53 in the world. There are only 11 dark sky reserves – which have a larger size requirement than parks – and none of them are in the U.S.”

You might also want to put the Hoh Rain Forest on your travel schedule. It’s known as one of “the quietest places on earth” thanks to Gordon Hempton’s work there.

In fact, “acoustic ecology” is an emerging field, so if you’re interested in “eco-tourism” you’re among a growing group of people who seek out quiet places around the world.

But as the author of the New York Times piece on Green Bank notes, “[t]o experience the deepest solitude, you need to enter the land where the internet ends.”

A few years ago, I worked with others to help turn George Prochnik’s 2011 book “In Pursuit of Silence” into a feature-length documentary film of the same name. What we learned in the process is how scarce truly “quiet zones” have become, despite the National Park Service’s efforts to preserve them.

So hurry up! Plan a few trips before these “Quiet Zones” disappear!

David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: QCI Healthcare Acoustics Project, ANSI Committee S12-WG44, the Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Committee. He is lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0” (Springer, 2012), a contributor to the NAE’s “Technology for a Quieter America” and the GSA’s “Sound Matters,” and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics at Rensselaer Polytech. A graduate of UC-Berkeley with advanced degrees from Cornell, he is a frequent organizer of professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Want to get away from the noise?

Photo credit: Peter Rintels licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

You are not the only one. Jess Bidgood, The New York Times introduces us to Dennis Follensbee, a programmer from New Hampshire, who is on “an exhaustive search for the noiseless hollows and dells of New Hampshire’s White Mountains.” The good news is that Follensbee has mapped 23 quiet places to date. The bad news is that he will only share this information with family and “close friends,” because “[i]f quiet places are widely known, he reasons, ‘they cease to be quiet.’”

But despite keeping his information secret, formerly quiet places have been found and are being “enjoyed” by those who love noise. Writes Bidgood,”people whose passions make noise — like snowmobilers and motorcyclists — say they, too, have the right to enjoy the wilderness.” That is, they believe they have the right to make as much noise as they want because they like it, and they are seemingly unburdened by the needs of others who go to the wilderness to enjoy natural sounds. Bidgood speaks to a 75-year old motorcyclist who finds the noise he creates “thrilling,” saying that it is “part of the attraction.”

Which suggests, sadly, that Mr. Follensbee list will likely see some subtraction. One can only hope that in some future enlightened time (ed: it could happen) those who are entrusted with protecting our natural spaces understand that it includes the natural soundscape.