Looking for some peace and quiet? Maybe try traveling to a place in Washington that’s come to be known as the “quietest square inch in the United States.” Just be prepared to hear a lot of wonderful sounds.

By Mike Pomranz
July 30, 2015
Credit: Cultura Creative (RF) / Alamy

In his search for America’s quietest spot, Emmy-award winning acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton wasn’t looking for the absence of noise, but the absence of human-made noise. After visiting locations in all 48 continental states, he chose a location in Olympic National Park that he refers to as “One Inch of Silence” – a rare location that can go completely without human-made sounds for a whopping… get this… 20 whole minutes at a time.

Of course, One Square Inch is in some ways symbolic. Hempton wasn’t able to measure sound in every square inch of the entire United States, but his independent research project is about more than just setting some sort of record for silence. He wants to raise awareness of how much we’re losing our quiet. For instance, back in 2005, his quietest location could go an hour without any noise. Thanks primarily to aircraft – noise, which is affecting the entire country, be it from commercial or military planes – that precious silence is dwindling. “Unless something is done, we’ll see the complete extinction of quiet in the U.S. in our lifetime,” Hempton told Outside.

Though most of us will never make it to America’s quietest place – and I guess going would kind of defeat the purpose – thanks to the Internet, you can hear the sound of silence over on Soundcloud or below. “One Minute at One Square Inch of Silence” is probably the loudest silence you will ever hear – an amplified take on the spots natural din which at times is actually below 20 decibels (quieter than a recording studio). But it’s pretty cool to be reminded that peace and quiet is as much about the peace as it is the quiet.

For his part, Hempton thinks silence can be saved if we work to protect it. “I'm optimistic that we can preserve silence, but if it doesn't happen then noise will continue to intrude until we come around,” Hempton said. “There's no alternative to quiet. It's one of those things that keeps us sane in life – like clean air, it just takes some smog to remind us why we need it.”