After years of painstaking acoustic measurements, Hempton identified this spot on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula as the quietest place in the U.S.—the spot most free of our man-made noise pollution. He has nurtured this square inch, guided people to it, and protected it from encroaching cacophony of our modern world. But now it faces its biggest threat yet.
Smith was turned on to the wonders of silence by Hempton, a self-styled acoustic ecologist who travels the world capturing the natural soundscape of remote locales.
N 47.51575°, W 123.52133°—Amid the panoply of greenery that makes up the Hoh Rainforest, a gap in the old growth forest arises. Well, more accurately it’s a gap in a tree—a hollow inside a towering Sitka spruce that stands like an open door. Beyond it, a short game trail through ankle-deep mud and pools of water accumulated from the week’s rains ends in a clearing lined with ferns.
The Olympic Mountains are craggy sentries that block out sounds from the densely populated areas to the east along Puget Sound. They also form the first impediment to storms roaring in from the west, with copious amounts of rain unleashed on the mountains’ western flanks. That rain and the dreary skies have kept the western half of the peninsula sparsely populated while nourishing the Hoh Rainforest, the best preserved temperate rainforest in the U.S. Its lush landscape of ferns, shrubs and towering trees and the piles of detritus and leaf litter on the forest floor are all noise absorbers, making it a natural diving bell in the cacophony of the modern world.