A research project believes it has found the quietest spot in the USA at Washington’s Olympic National Park and is now fighting to preserve it – and similar spots around the country – from the threat of encroaching noise pollution.
In a wild area of the park, there is what’s called ‘one square inch of silence’. You can listen to recordings online and, of course, the area is not completely silent but instead filled only with only natural sounds. The park itself is one of the most pristine and ecologically-diverse spots in the country but researchers say that these pockets of silence are not adequately protected by current environmental regulations.
The idea behind designating such a small area is simple; since loud noises such as aircrafts can travel over many miles, if you protect just one square inch, the positive impact will also be felt for miles around it.
Gordon Hempton, the founder of the project, is currently lobbying for Olympic National Park to be made the country’s first ‘Quiet Park’, a designation he hopes will be similar to many Dark Sky reserves around the world where stargazers can enjoy unpolluted views of stars. Yet the quietude is constantly under threat from increased activity at a nearby Naval Air Base and the continued expansion of Seattle-Tacoma airport.
The desire to find this corner of peace is tempting and hikers are certainly encouraged to seek it out for themselves, though naturally they’re encouraged to be as quiet as possible. When there, you’ll find a jar filled with notes of ‘quiet thoughts’ left there and you can add your own too. While you’re welcome to read them, visitors are asked to not take pictures or quote them elsewhere, but instead leave them in place.
Interested in making the journey? The ‘square inch of silence’ is 3.2 miles from Visitor’s Centre (about two hours easy hiking time) on the Hoh River Trail. The spot itself is marked with a red stone on top of a moss-covered log, but you can also find it with the coordinates: N 48.12885°, W 123.68234° or by following the directions here.
On the upside, some people are rediscovering the importance of silence, if not always ecologically then certainly on mental health. Silent retreats are currently on the rise in the wellness sector, although naturally it’s not quite so perfectly still as the spot in Olympic National Park.