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Arts & Culture

In ‘Seeing Silence,’ National Geographic Photographer Pete McBride Documents The Changing Auditory Landscape Of The World’s Remotest Places

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Pete McBride
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Local photojournalist and National Geographic adventurer Pete McBride created this time-lapse photo of the peaks at Maroon Bells in the Elk Mountains, outside Aspen. The photo, which captures a buzz of air traffic in the night sky, appears in McBride's new book, "Seeing Silence: The Beauty of the World's Most Quiet Places."

In some of the world’s wildest, remotest places, silence can be pin-drop quiet. It can also be incredibly noisy, according to local filmmaker, author and National Geographic photographer Pete McBride.

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Orca whales in northern Norway. McBride spent times photographing the whales alongside a team of researchers during last year's COVID-19 lockdowns, and his observations are part of the book.

“I define silence as not void of sound, but void of mechanical sound,” said McBride. “If you’re immersed in nature — say, a penguin colony that’s all squawking and singing — it can be mind-numbingly loud in a really beautiful way.”

That’s the subject of his new book, Seeing Silence: The Beauty of the World’s Most Quiet Places. The book includes a foreword by noted environmentalist Bill McKibben and an essay by adventurer and author Erik Weihenmayer, who was the first blind person to summit Mount Everest. Seeing Silence also chronicles the ways that human noise disrupts some of the wild landscapes that McBride has visited over his 20-year career.

Arts and culture reporter Kirsten Dobroth spoke to McBride about the book, the sounds of silence and the ways that silence is changing in different parts of the world.

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