Quiet. It’s hard to come by. Especially if you live in a city. But Port Townsend’s Gordon Hempton says Washington state is home to one of the quietest places in the country. And he wants to keep it that way.
That’s why Hempton created the project One Square Inch of Silence.
“One Square Inch of Silence is the least noise-polluted place in the lower 48 of the United States,” Hempton said. “And it’s located in the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park.”
“The criteria to belong on the world’s last great quiet places is to only have a noise-free interval of 15 minutes,” he said. “Which means between one jet and the next jet, in the most common circumstance, there will be at least 15 minutes, hopefully, more. At last count, there are only a dozen [of these places] in the continental United States, of which the Hoh Valley is one of them. But today we find that it’s teetering just below 20 minutes. The reason for that is SeaTac Airport is now our nation’s fastest-growing airport.”
Hempton is adamant about keeping this spot quiet. So he contacted airlines about changing their flight paths.
“In three cases, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and Aloha Airlines, they did agree to fly around Olympic National Park,” he said. “However, the FAA has flights to Asia that designate Olympic National Park as the preferred flight path. So we changed our strategy in that time and we’re pushing for legislation to have Olympic National Park designated as the world’s first quiet park. You might think that’s a far-fetched idea but not really because we have an International Dark Sky park system and there are now over 30 parks, internationally, that protect these parks from light pollution so we can see the night sky.”
Olympic National Park
Why the obsession with absolute quiet?
“What’s not to love about quiet?” Hempton said. “Science has already shown us that when you experience quiet, true quiet, such as in nature, you can increase your scoring on IQ tests, you can become more creative and your whole brain seems to open up its communication channels. We simply become better versions of me and you.”
Quiet, in Hempton’s terms, does not actually mean dead silence. It does mean absolutely no man-made sounds. Water flowing, birds chirping, logs creaking; this is all good. Simply not talking when you’re out and about running errands isn’t enough to achieve the psychological benefits. That’s just internal quiet. Hempton says there’s a difference.
“It’s biological need,” he said. “Quiet is a necessary ingredient to our lives. I often think of it as Vitamin Q. If you don’t have quiet in your life your teeth won’t fall out, but you won’t be as healthy or well adjusted or satisfied with your life unless you include some quiet in it.”
If you want to hike out to the One Square Inch of Quiet spot, click here to learn more.