June 30, 2016

There's no silence anywhere

A REPORT ON THE RADIO the other day mentioned that it was almost impossible in many national parks to get away from man-made noise. No matter how remote the parks were, there was always some background noise from distant highways, all-terrain vehicles, and aircraft passing overhead.

I always thought that the best place to find relief from human noise was far out to sea, but that turned out to be only partly true. One day when we were in the tropics, hot and sticky and running in the trades, I heard the faint but unmistakable noise of a jetliner passing high overhead. All I could think about then was how nice it would be to be sitting aboard that plane in cool airconditioning, listening to the tinkle of ice in my cocktail glass.

It occurred to me belatedly that mankind makes plenty of noise out in the deep sea, too. There are not only surface ships making the waters throb with their diesel engines, but also submarines emitting various kinds of pings for highly secret purposes. There is, in fact, a whole network of cables and listening devices spread out over the floors of the oceans to pick up noises made by surface ships and submarines.

I sometimes wonder what the point is, though, since submarines can be as silent as they like, yet satellites can often find them at night with the help of nature alone. When I was the editor of a yachting magazine I once received an official photograph taken by a satellite of a fully submerged submarine cruising at night and brightly bathed in the light of phosphorescence. There was no hiding from the eye in the sky.   

It’s easy to believe that soon there will be nowhere that is safe from human noise, not even Mt. Everest or the South Pole. Noise is simply a part of life, and we must remember that humans are not the only cause of noise. Nature is quite noisy, too.

Today’s Thought
An horrid stillness first invades the ear,
And in that silence we the tempest fear.
— Dryden, Astræa Redux

"How's your glassblower friend?"
"Not so good. He inhaled by mistake and they took him to the hospital with a pane in his stomach.”

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