Story by Edward Readicker-Henderson
Photos by Elyse Butler & Matt Mallams
Five years ago I read a study that said the crater of Haleakala was the quietest place in the world.
I’ve traveled the globe listening for quiet. I’ve sought it in the world’s remote places like the high Arctic and the deserts of Mongolia, only to be disappointed. In the Arctic, icebergs ground against each other as glaciers ripped themselves from land. In quiet moments between the gusts of wind on the Mongolian steppe, I heard the bucolic music of goats and sheep eating the landscape. I also sampled the best soundscapes civilization had to offer, like temple bells echoing over Kyoto — peaceful but hardly quiet. Or the lap of water in the canals of Venice, a city where because there are no cars and because its sharply turning alleys block even the rustle of footsteps, night sounds exactly as it did 500 years ago. But it wasn’t until I visited Hawai‘i that I heard something close to silence in a place called Kipuka Ki, a native forest area on the Big Island. I walked into the forest and heard … nothing. No wind, no birds, no insects. It was so quiet my ears began to hurt until rainfall gave me something to listen to. It was oppressively quiet, close to the edge of sterile.
But now, with black sand swirling around my boots and my map telling me I’m close to dead center in the crater of Haleakala, I think: I should have come here first.