I just wondered if there is a known "most quiet" place on Earth.

Perhaps people have measured "ambient" sound throughout the year in various places claimed to be the most quiet. And perhaps one has emerged as proven to be quieter than the other contenders?

Is such a place known? And can I travel there? (-:

I'm looking for some kind of natural place, not really a soundproof chamber in a lab. But that might also be an interesting geek travel destination I suppose, in which case there could be two right answers ...

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    If adding "And can I travel there? (-:" makes this a travel question, then everything is a travel question. "What was the best-selling album in 1973? And can I travel to where it was recorded?" "What is the smallest country in the world? And can I travel there?" "What is the brightest star in the night sky? And can I travel there?" – David Richerby Apr 19 '15 at 11:37
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    Travel is movement from place to place. I'd love to go to the quietest place (the lab), and the smallest country (arguably Vatican City). The album thing is a bit facetious. – Mark Mayo Apr 19 '15 at 12:26
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    @DavidRicherby: Well a bit but we debated factoid questions ages ago and the consensus was that if they're travel related we're OK with them. Also read Joel Spolsky's blog post about the long tail. He's the creator of Stack Exchange and the long tail is having lots of little questions rather than just few big questions, as long as they're on topic. What's the best selling album of 1973 is not a travel question. But if you know what or where it is then asking about visiting it is a travel question. If you're concerned that we don't close any questions as being off-topic then you're new here (-: – hippietrail Apr 19 '15 at 12:33
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    Deep caves are probably the quietest naturally occurring places on earth, since there is no wind and no animal life. If you don't want to go on a caving expedition, the alpine zone of a mountain range can be extremely quiet when there is no wind; as with caves, these places are quiet because they're basically dead. – Ben Crowell Apr 19 '15 at 22:11
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12 Answers 12

up vote 68 down vote accepted

One journalist did attempt to research this - both the artificial labs and the natural spaces. He details it in his book - Zero Decibels if you'd like to read it.

The highlights in nature:

  • Several years ago, the Campaign to Protect Rural England declared a spot in Northumberland the most tranquil place in the country (when the nearby military base isn't doing training exercises).

  • 12 such quiet places exist in the US, with more found around the world. A spot in the Hoh Rainforest in Washington is one, as are places in Grasslands National Park in Canada, Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota and Haleakala National Park in Hawaii (see gallery). The others, however, he keeps confidential.

  • On the other hand, he identified a quiet place deep in the Ecuadorian rainforest,

  • he suspects other such places in Poland, Norway, Sweden and Finland

Recently, a map of the USA was created to show the quiet spots on a summer day. So that gives some idea for sound levels in the US. As you'd expect - away from people, cities, and wildlife tends to produce quiet, although windy areas also affect it.

Aside from nature, he points out the quietest places are custom built, such as the Anechoic Chamber at Orfield Labs, in Minnesota.

Tours to the lab:

"Group tours are available a few times a year and include a brief stop at the anechoic chamber (call the lab for details). But the facility has had so much interest in the 45-minute challenge that the founder Steven Orfield is considering making that option available to the public within the next year, and is working with the Guinness Book of World Records to establish an official record for the longest time spent in an anechoic chamber.

The 45-minute challenge will not come cheap, however, as companies renting the space normally pay $300 to $400 an hour, and someone trained from the lab must be able to supervise the participants to ensure their safety. "

UPDATE:

As of this month, Microsoft now officially holds the Guinness World Record for quietest place on earth - inside Building 87 on the sprawling Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington.

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    Apparently the place in Northumberland is part of a military base so it's quiet when there's no exercises taking place, but not so much when they are. – hippietrail Apr 19 '15 at 10:38
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    No it's good now with the disclaimer you added! (-: – hippietrail Apr 19 '15 at 10:47
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    They're separate sentences...nobody is claiming Canada is in the US. – Mark Mayo Apr 19 '15 at 16:28
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    @hippietrail I live not far from said military base (Otterburn) and exercises are only in operation a couple times of the year. They are usually reported in local media to warn local residents in case they think we are at war. The rest of the year it is very quiet and tranquil! – davidb Apr 20 '15 at 8:11
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    There are anechoic chambers all over the world. – Lightness Races in Orbit Apr 20 '15 at 15:46

Anaechoic Chamber at Orfield Labs

When it comes to soundproof chambers, the quietest place on earth is the Anechoic chamber, at Orfield Labs. Quoting from this article from the Atlas OBscura:

A typical quiet bedroom at night measures about 30 decibels; this chamber measures at -9 decibels. It is made of 3.3-foot-thick fiberglass acoustic wedges, double walls of insulated steel and foot-thick concrete.

The chamber is in fact in the Guinnes book of records for being 99.99% sound absorbent.

Yes, staying in the room for more than an hour will drive you crazy. One reporter did manage to resist for something along the lines of 45 minutes. By far the best description I could find of the place is given by Mr. Orfield himself:

When it’s quiet, ears will adapt. The quieter the room, the more things you hear. You’ll hear your heart beating, sometimes you can hear your lungs, hear your stomach gurgling loudly. In the anechoic chamber, you become the sound.

Below is an image of the lab, and its record-winning certificate (courtesy of Daily Mail Online):

Orfield Lab

Visiting the Chamber

The chamber is used by companies to for product development and tests. Harley-Davidson is one such company. The Orfield Labs website says that the chamber can be rented out, however being left alone in it is not allowed:

The chamber is a test chamber for product, not people, and we can not allow anyone in the chamber alone for any significant amount of time without supervision. Orfield Laboratories costs are $100.00 per person with a $200.00 minimum, Monday through Friday by reservation.

If your interest is in challenging the "45 minute record", there is NO Guinness World Record for time spent in the chamber, this has been incorrectly reported in many press stories around the world.

If you would like to schedule a visit please contact me via email at Info@orfieldlabs.com . All payments must be made 2 weeks in advance of your visit.

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    And can the public visit? – hippietrail Apr 19 '15 at 10:25
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    I'd LOVE to try it, and beat the 45 minutes... – Mark Mayo Apr 19 '15 at 10:28
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    There is a kind of poetry in the concept of testing Harley Davidsons in the quietest room on earth. – RemcoGerlich Apr 19 '15 at 19:54
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    Derek Miller of Veritasium fame took the challenge and lasted for an hour with no problem, and felt that he could have gone on much longer, although there's a few things he did that might have affected that outcome. – fluffy Apr 19 '15 at 21:57
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    See also: skeptics.stackexchange.com/q/15004/5337. – gerrit Apr 21 '15 at 1:23

I used to live in the Canadian countryside, and I would say that even if you are far from the noises of man, the noises of nature are still rather loud. Wind (both direct and from moving the grass and trees about), rain, wildlife etc. Much quieter in the winter but I would not call it silent.

A cave, on the other hand, is about as quiet as the artificial chambers. Yes, it echoes but unless it has running water the only sound deep in a cave is your own noises.

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    Very good answer. I was trying to find a place with little wind, forgetting that nature supplied places without wind. (Not many caves in the Netherlands and non where I live.) – Willeke Apr 19 '15 at 13:54
  • Besides running water, many caves have bats and some have birds. But yes I didn't think of caves at all when I thought of the question. – hippietrail Apr 20 '15 at 1:48

Svalbard is naturally quiet. There are no trees there which makes the sound of the wind a lot less. Also, this means that there are not many birds there which also reduces the sound relative to other places. It is also a place you can easily visit, there are regular flights to the main settlement on Svalbard, Longyearbyen from Tromsø and Oslo. Northernmost ATM

As this picture taken by me there shows, it's pretty much as far North as a normal person can go.

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    I'll download a sound meter app on my phone and measure the sound intensity for you when I'm there in a few months from now. – Count Iblis Apr 19 '15 at 16:21
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    Your phone microphone almost certainly isn't designed to reliably pick up silence, nor extremely loud sounds. That is to say, it will likely generate electronic noise internally which will drown out the ambient sound, or it's Analog-to-Digital converter will just flatline at 0 because the analog input is below 0.5 ULP before rounding. – MSalters Apr 20 '15 at 13:46
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    "ATM Machine" -.- – Lightness Races in Orbit Apr 20 '15 at 15:48
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    @LightningRacisinObrit Make sure you enter your PIN number correctly in the ATM machine. :) – reirab Apr 21 '15 at 14:45
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    @LightningRacisinObrit, Only someone with OCD disorder would comment on that. – Zano Apr 23 '15 at 12:44

The limits of our hearing sensitivity mean that many of the quieter places in the world will all sound the same. It is unlikely you would be able to tell the difference between the sound levels in the quietest place on earth and the 100th, or even 1000th, quietest place. Further, your breathing and fidgeting will have a serious impact on the sound level in these ultra quiet places and will in fact swamp the ambient background noise.

Unless you are some place like the Mapparium, reverberation of the sounds of your breathing and fidgeting will likely have little effect on the sound level. This means that the absorptive foam wedges in anechoic chambers will not provide a noticeable decrease in the sound level. The heavy concrete walls of the sound booth and the vibration damping used in the construction of sound booths in general, of which anechoic chambers are one type, provide good isolation from external ambient sound.

My guess for the quietest place on earth are the Inchindown oil storage tanks in Rossshire Scotland. They are in essence the opposite of an anechoic chamber and are the place where the worlds longest echo was recorded.

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What makes them so good for echoes is the massive weight and thickness of the surrounding rocks. It basically means that no outside sounds get in so the only sound would be your breathing and fidgeting. If you can hold your breath for 112+ seconds and not move, you should be able to experience the silence of the Brownian motion of air.

I adore silence.I discovered this in Las Canadas National Park, Tenerife. Below the peak of Mt Teide sit ancient lava flows.The original Caldera of the island, now a flat plain. Take a walk into the middle and sit yourself down. You will find more moments of silence than you can imagine.

For those of you who can read Dutch, (or use an online translating service) here is a link to the page about the 'silence areas' following the Dutch laws for such.

Een stiltegebied is een milieubeschermingsgebied waarin de geluiden van flora en fauna overheersen. Het woord ‘stilte’ betekent hierbij niet dat er geen geluid in het gebied waarneembaar is, maar staat voor de afwezigheid van storende, voor de omgeving vreemde geluiden. Stiltegebieden zijn van belang voor de rustzoekende recreant en de flora en fauna in de natuur. Activiteiten die de geluidsbelasting negatief beïnvloeden, zijn niet meer mogelijk in het gebied dat als stiltegebied is aangewezen. Gebiedseigen geluiden, zoals die van de landbouw, zijn hiervan uitgesloten. Onder 'stil' worden geluiden verstaan die tussen de 35 en 40 decibel liggen.

Short translation: A silence area is a protected nature area within which the sounds of flora and fauna take the top. The word 'silence' does not mean that there are no sounds but just no annoying sounds that do not belong to the area. Man made sounds normal for the area, like farming sounds, are allowed (but areas selected that they are rare rather than an everyday thing) and all other man made sounds should stay below the 40 decibel level.

You will often find many people cycling in several of the areas, in others you will find waves (as part of the areas are covered in sea) but in build up Western Europe it might be your best bet. I guess Greece has better places to avoid man made sounds, as there are islands that do not have (much of a) population.

And again just in Dutch, here a link to one of the areas where cycling is not even an option. (This page has a French version but that is less extensive.) Quote from this page:

Het bos is initieel aangeplant; bij het planten is rekening gehouden met de abiotische factoren. Omdat de natuur in hoge mate haar gang kan gaan, verwacht men dat er een spannend milieu zal ontstaan. Zeker wanneer de grote grazers een kans krijgen zal in het Horsterwold een natuurlijk bos ontstaan. <-> In het stiltegebied zijn geen gebaande paden; de recreant kan gebruikmaken van de groenstroken, wildwissels, of gewoonweg rondstruinen. Laarzen zijn wel aan te bevelen.

Shortened translation: The forest was planted with a view on being able to grow without much management. It is expected that nature will create an existing balance, specially when large herbivores do their work to create a natural forest. <-> In the silence area there are no made paths, the visitors can use the natural and animal made paths or go around as they wish, gumboots are advised.

  • I think I remembered an area like that in the UK, but I can not find anything using Google. But even when not made into an area protected by law, I am sure that some areas within national parks will be in the same kind of condition, I am thinking the moors. – Willeke Apr 19 '15 at 11:31
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    Keep in mind that wildlife can be quite loud. – Mark Apr 19 '15 at 23:19
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    @Mark I've been at a couple of those areas and the 'loudest' wildlife are ducks and geese. One of the areas is at the radiotelescope near Dwingeloo (no longer on active duty, preserved by CAMRAS. – Mast Apr 21 '15 at 12:49
  • Ducks and geese may well move a location from "the quietest on earth" to "top thousand most quiet" for all we know. Or less. – hippietrail Apr 23 '15 at 5:04
  • That is way I initially asked for a more precise qualifier of 'ambient sound', I still answered as this kind of place is likely the most quiet you can find in build up Western Europe. – Willeke Apr 23 '15 at 8:44
  • Antarctica and Arctic (Inner Greenland)
    Once inside, having good weather and no wind, it is extremely silent. On the other hand, it may be disturbed by the sound of chattering teeth.

  • Sand desert Again very quiet. Rocky deserts may have some noise due to weathering causing some small landslides. Examples are Rub' al Khali (Saudi Arabia), Badain Jaran Desert (China), Namib Desert (Namibia) the big Australian Sandy Desert etc. etc.

The Empty Quarter (Rub Al Khali) is accessible by car from Abu Dhabi. You have both access and phone service - that you may prefer not to use, of course - and it is silent, it makes voices sound weird. There are areas where people use dune buggies far away, but this is a very, very large and accessible desert (while still in the UAE, you will have full phone coverage).

I camped out there many times, and when the wind was down (during sunset and sunrise, there are transitional winds), I got the heebie-jeebies from the silence. You can hear a small beetle negotiate a dune nearby. Very beautiful, too.

In orbit

While technically not on Earth, per se, being in low-Earth orbit is about as quiet as you can get while within the vicinity of Earth, and space tourism is just starting up (although expect to pay a lot of money for it).

Of course, if you can get up there without any sort of vehicle or suit, it'll be even quieter, although your enjoyment of it might be a bit brief.

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    Actually, all forms of transport to orbit, and all accommodation in orbit are incredibly noisy. Fans, heat-exchangers, pumps, expanding and contracting metal surfaces... – Rory Alsop Apr 20 '15 at 8:09

Mariana Trench, the deepest and darkest place in the ocean is 11 miles deep. Nothing down there expect sea cucumbers and the very occasional jellyfish and the Most peaceful serenity

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    And the occasional hum of the submersible and its equipment d-; – hippietrail Apr 20 '15 at 1:46
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    Unfortunately, sound travels quite well in water. Hundreds of kilometers in fact. The whale singing overhead might well be heard at the bottom. – MSalters Apr 20 '15 at 13:49
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    Whales don't swim deeper than 1.8 miles deep and most don't even swim that deep. While the sound could certainly travel to the bottom it will be severely mitigated in volume after it makes the 9+ mile journey – Maximin Apr 20 '15 at 14:47
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    Has any attempt been made to objectively quantify it? – hippietrail Apr 21 '15 at 1:06
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    @hippietrail I didn't know that attempt was successful. Ah well, I learn something new every day. Thanks for the heads up. – Mast Apr 21 '15 at 17:16

Try somewhere high up, but obviously not on a windy day. High up because there will be no trees with leaves to rustle and virtually no animal life, no bird calls. I recently went up Teide volcano in Tenerife, it was beautifully sunny, still and completely silent.

  • If you go skydiving, the moment you open your chute and are gliding back to earth (or floating back to earth if your handgliding) are among the quietest moments I've experienced on earth. – n00b Apr 20 '15 at 22:05
  • I've been skydiving, several hundred times. The canopy ride is quite noisy, but quiet compared to the 200km/h wind from freefall. Your ears hadn't adjusted to the pressure change. – paul Apr 21 '15 at 0:48

protected by hippietrail Apr 21 '15 at 6:29

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