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Oh, The Quiet Places You'll Go

Posted by Ben Watanabe at Feb 12, 2008 03:05 PM |

Last month, KIRO-7 TV profiled Gordon Hempton, a botanist and nature sound recorder. The Port Angeles native received an Emmy for “Outstanding Individual Acheivement” as the subject of a PBS documentary, Vanishing Dawn Chorus. Hempton records the sounds of uninhibited nature, from the rhythmic ribbits of a frog to the soft splashing of the tide.

Hempton captures only one of the senses and enjoyments of being in and with nature. But he captures one of the most soothing: silence. In that silence, there are distinct sounds, not merely noise. No screeching tires, soaring sirens or chatty Kathy on her cell phone in line for a grande double macchiato; only bubbling brooks, a songbird singing and pauses of silence. Samplings of Hempton’s audio recordings are found on the KIRO-7 website.

Hempton has recorded on six continents (only Antarctica isn’t represented) and 13 states. His most recorded state is Washington, with 18 albums devoted to the sounds found across the state. Olympic National Park has its own four-disc set, including Songs of Spring, Forest Rain, Ocean Dreams, and Autumn Echoes. All of Hempton’s CDs are available to purchase online at 

Proceeds from the sales of the One Square Inch disc support One Square Inch of Silence claims to be the quietest place in the United States and aims to aid the National Park Service in their goal to preserve the natural soundscapes of parks. Sounds of frogs croaking, birds chirping and rainfall play from this disc, captured in the Hoh Rain Forest of Olympic National Park. The website states the location is marked by a small red rock at 47 degrees 51.959N, 123 degrees 52.221W.

But Hempton isn’t restricted to National Parks and wilderness. His recording, Water Pipe, captured in Eastern Washington, carries the sounds of trickling water traveling through a pipe. Listening to a water pipe isn’t initially as interesting as some of his other recordings. But the steady sound of running water reverberating through the pipe soothes and gives the inanimate pipe tranquility and rhythm. The exact locations are withheld to maintain their pristine sound quality, but the name of the area or park is given.

While Hempton captures some of the quiet places, he certainly can’t get them all.

What are your favorite tranquil quiet places? Share them by signing up for a blog account and posting a comment.