Mapping Alaska's soundscape: Day of listening set for Sunday

Posted: Friday, March 22, 2002

Can you hear winter this morning?

Imagine that you are a skier on the traverse from Arctic Valley to Indian across the heart of Chugach State Park. It is a clear and sunny March morning. 20 degrees. Your cross country skis make a "swish swish" in the snow. Listen up now. What else do you hear? A few birds, the wind, skis whispering. That's it. Life is perfect.

But now imagine that on this same sun-warmed day you are in the west end of Denali State Park. The air whines and screams with snowmachine racket from the river and the roar of flightseeing planes overhead. There is no peace, there is no quiet on these public lands.

Or maybe you are in Turnagain Pass seeking some backcountry magic. All day the noise from the snowmachine parking lot and snowmachining side of the pass "vroom vrooms," even reaching the top where road traffic sounds do not carry.

These are true stories from the first annual Winter Day of Listening in March 2001. There are more. The South Fork of Snow River (on the Kenai Peninsula in Chugach National Forest) didn't freeze, so it was delightful. No machines were attracted to the area. On the Susitna River south of Talkeetna, the same. The river didn't freeze, again keeping away the machines. Plus, it was a windy gusty day so no planes flew. A doubleheader of a day!

Similarly, the Summer Day of Listening produced reports of joy in Juneau where the weather prevented heli-flightseeing.

Increasingly the natural sounds that should fill the Alaska outdoors are disrupted by the noise of motors. Many of us have found that areas where we once enjoyed natural quiet have become overrun by motorized recreation.

Can you hear winter? Listen up. Let us know. We are mapping the soundscape of Alaska from year to year, summer and winter.

Last year's responses span a major portion of our state from Southeast Alaska through Haines, Kodiak, Homer, Anchorage, Talkeetna and north. The Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition Second Annual Winter Day of Listening is Sunday. We ask you to record what natural quiet you experience and what else you hear wherever you are in Alaska.

Listen for an hour. Make note of what you heard and for how long. Call your report to 566-3524 or mail it to P.O. Box 202592, Anchorage, AK 99520.

Thanks for listening.

Elizabeth Hatton is a member of the Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition. She lives in Indian.

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