It’s Not as Quiet as It Used to Be

According to Kim Tingley, a freelance (self-employed) writer, Danali National Park, in Alaska in the U.S., “should be a haven (safe place) for natural sound.” But apparently it isn’t.

The park is made up of “enormous (very large) stretches (areas) of wild country” that cover 9,942 square miles (24,585 square kilometers) and includes 20,320 foot high (6,194 meters) Mt. McKinley, the highest mountain in North America. Only “one dead-end (no way out at the end) and mostly unpaved (no smooth, hard surface) road penetrates (enters) the park.” But in spite of its size (even though it’s large), it’s not as quiet as you might think.

Since scientists began recording and monitoring (listening to see how it changes) sound in Denali in 2006, there have been only 36 complete days without the sound of some kind of man-made (made by humans) sound. Airplanes are the most common. On one day, a single (one) monitoring station recorded the sounds of 78 different airplanes. Other stations have recorded as many as one man-made sound every 17 minutes.

Tingley writes that “humans have … altered (changed) the acoustics (sound) of the entire globe (world).” And many of the changes are permanent (will last forever). Scientists have learned enough about the effects of man-made noise (unexpected, unwanted sound) to know that it is affecting the lives of many animals, just like climate change and urbanization (growth of cities) have done.

Noise is not a new problem. In a very old legend (traditional story), according to Tingley, the gods complained that they couldn’t sleep because of human noise. The Roman writer Juvenal complained about the same thing in 200 A.D. In the 1200s, some cities began to make laws to try to control noise, and in 1972, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared (stated officially) that noise is a pollutant (makes the environment dangerous).

Scientists have begun to create soundscapes – sound pictures made up of recorded animal and nature sounds, like wind and running (moving) water, as well as man-made sounds. They will use the soundscapes to try to identify healthy and unhealthy areas. Tingley’s article describes their attempts to do this in Denali. It includes some of the natural sounds scientists have recorded there.

Scientists hope to find and protect areas where it’s possible to hear and enjoy natural sounds. They hope that future visitors to these areas will have the same experience a fourth-grader did on a field trip to the National Wildlife Refuge (a safe place for wild animals) in Northern Virginia last year. When he got home he wrote: “the best thing about this place is that it has such nice noises that you don’t feel alone when you are alone.”

One of my favorite winter memories is driving up to a trail (rough path in the forest) near the railroad tunnel (a passage cut into a mountain) under Rollins Pass, high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado in the U.S. When we got there, we’d clip into (attach) our cross-country (Nordic) skis, put on a small backpack with sandwiches, snacks, and hot chocolate, and make our way up the side of the mountain. The only sounds we heard were the hissing (sound like “ssssss”) of the skis and our own heavy breathing as we worked our way up the trail. Around noon we’d stop at a small mountain meadow, take off our skis, and sit down on the sunny side of an old deserted cabin. As we ate our sandwiches and drank our hot chocolate, the only sounds we heard when we weren’t talking were the wind whispering (speaking softly) in the trees and the quiet bubbling (sound of water on small rocks) of a small stream as it fell down the side of the mountain. I wonder if it’s still that quiet there today. I hope so.

~ Warren Ediger – creator of Successful English, where you’ll find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Photo of Mt. McKinley courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

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11 Responses to It’s Not as Quiet as It Used to Be

  1. John says:

    Thanks for this interesting article Warren!

    That picture is so beautiful….wow!

  2. Peter says:

    Holy moley ,
    The last paragraph got through me.
    Warren,my man , the man-made noises you just complained about it just the tip of iceberg. Dude ,dig deeper. There is way more to it.
    Well,it is evident that ” Piece and quite ” is a luxury these days that not everybody can have . as human beings go forward ,they tap in more and more of natural resources including the environment surronding us.
    In another words,they buttom them out for their own gloary so selfleshly. They never pause even for one second to see what they have done to mother earth.We have been encroaching the plant since the day one. as the most intellectual creature on earth ,in charge for saving of the planet and all the living entity on it, we intentionaly have defaced the planet earth to the point of distortion for our own glory.We are all activly a part of it. We did it every chance we got . We have dug out all its resources ,have cut down trees ,have scared it with iron ,cement ,and tar,we have raded oceans as deep as 11000 kilometer,and we have pulloted with emision.
    Well , no sweat ,distortion’s completed.
    mission accomplished.

    The bonehead :))

  3. emiliano says:

    So good note it is perfect, thanks a million Warren
    I love your style and the high interest of all the posts
    you write here but this one in particular is absolute
    It seems to me you love open air and Nature.

    Greetings. emiliano

  4. Betty says:

    Thank you very much indeed, Warren, for this beautifully written article and amazingly beautiful picture of the Mt. McKinley.

    I am very fond of nature and so I love this article very much.

    It is a place to died for.

    I am sorry I still do not have my computer and so typing this message takes a very long time.

    Just a very bad habit of my old job, I cannot stand seeing something I do not understand and do not ask. Why do we have “Danali National Park, in Alaska in the U.S.”? Was it “Danali” or “Denali”?

    I am losing my ability of writing because of having no computer. But I am gaining a new skill of the modern day life – using two thumbs to type instead of ten fingers to type. It is a new skills and it is “cool”!

    Thanks again. Thanks for sharing – this is not the same “thanks for sharing” that Jeff told us in his “Share and share alike” article. This is a genuine “thanks” from the bottom of my heart.

    Best Regards

    Betty 🙂

  5. Betty says:

    Sorry, mistake in my post above:

    “It is a place to died for”
    Should read as:
    “It is a place to die for”

    Many thanks for your attention.

  6. Warren says:

    Oh my! A typo (typing mistake) in the first sentence! It should be “Denali.” Thanks, Betty!

  7. sergio says:

    Dear Warren,
    I think the nature noise is the silence where we can listen to our breath and soul:
    there our thoughts beat as the heart does and whisper the words our mouths never say…
    I know sometimes the players go to play on the beach really early in the morning
    for hearing better the sound of their instruments (like a violin, a guitar, a flute)…
    Do the human being produce only noises? How many times is music so nearby the silence?
    Thank you very much,

  8. sergio says:

    DOES the human being…

  9. Dan says:

    Hello guys,

    Speaking of sounds, one of my favorite and sweet memory of last year is what follows:

    I went outside one evening last summer, to see if I could spot the hedgehog that has his “house” near my place
    just out of the front door. You know that they are really shy, they come out at night.

    I am used to give them the cats’ leftovers or apples.
    That night I laid down a leftovers’ bowl and waited in the dark.
    At one point I heard the sound of eating, you know, like gnaw gnaw.
    It was a small hedgehog so sweet and I was so happy!

    End of the story. bye 😉

  10. Betty says:

    Hi Warren

    Thank you very much for reading my message so carefully.

    I thought my message was not very clear and so no one would know what I was talking about. But you have picked up what I wanted to say and responded so promptly and accurately. Thank you for that.

    You know, now I think I wrongly said Emiliano and Sergio talked about Murphy’s Law here a while ago and I learned about Murphy’s Law from that time onward.

    I think it was Muphry’s Law that they were talking about.

    According to the Wikipedia, Muphry’s Law is an adage that states that “if you write anything critizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written”. The name is a deliberate misspelling of Murphy’s law.

    I have already pointed out one mistake I had in my message above. Another mistake is, I said: “It is a new skills and it is “cool”! I have made a grammatical error there. I should have said “a new skill” instead.

    Muphry’ law! Is this the correct way of using the expression?

    Thanks again, Warren, you are cool!

    Betty 😉

  11. Dan says:


    Like the Gods I could not sleep due to human (my mother) noise and cat’s noise.
    My solution to that issue was to having made a good pair of ear plugs custom made.
    They work beautifully!
    They are expensive though, 70 Euro a pair for sleeping, made out of some kind of silicone rubber.
    100 Euro a pair for my workplace that is really noisy. Those are made out of a harder material kind of resind.


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