Chad Blair’s recent column about noise was very timely. Especially when Civil Defense emergency sirens cannot be heard in Waikiki.

I fled Honolulu due to the impact of traffic noise, light, pollution and the constant traffic and humming of electric motors. Hammered by air conditioning, generators, pile drivers slamming concrete deeper into the heart of the island. Changing the view planes, altering the very trade winds that made Honolulu so magical.

In 1970, I went to Kauai. For a while it was heaven. Quiet. Birds. Surf on nights when the winds drop. Sanctuary.

Kokee was even better. Kalalau was paradise. I had a camping and hiking tour in 1971 and made the most of it, searching for the peace and the lessons of the forest.

Quiet, please: Kokee State Park on Kauai. Flickr: Deb Nystrom

However, the helicopters here destroyed all that. On one Sunday recently in Kokee, I clocked 13 helicopter flights in 30 minutes. Sometimes, three in less than a minute.

When they created a master plan for Kokee, I went to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ public comment session at Kauai War Memorial Center. Unfortunately, I was only able to speak near the end of the session, when most had left. Very few heard the message.   

The birds cannot be heard. They have no voices we can understand, except as song.

I pointed out that the whole plan was mostly two-dimensional. It takes into account a world only 6 feet-by-8 feet high and did nothing to address the impacts on the wildlife and birds. Their feeding patterns, nesting, mating and laying eggs. The airspace. The fourth dimension of freedom.

Noise Is Violence

I was a hiker when helicopters were rare. I know how the canyon and the forest uplands should sound, and how rare that is now.

Even the coastal trails are subjected to the constant carousel of choppers whirling offshore, as close to the coastal features, walls, valleys and waterfalls as they dare. Risking the thermals and updrafts, and scattering the koae, or white-tailed tropic birds, who sail the canyon on the wind currents. They inhabit the high cliffs needed for flight.

Now, the sound rolls down the funnels of narrow canyon valleys, and then bounces and reverberates off the adjoining canyon walls, echoing down the entire canyon. The bird life comes to a sudden stop.

This repetitive stress is killing off the necessary wildness of a state park.

The sweet songs and calling from treetop to waterfall to lush valley halts. The thudding and pounding of prop-beaten air and throbbing motors roars overhead. In these persistent, abrupt assaults on nature, the peace and quiet of Kokee are shattered.

This repetitive stress is killing off the necessary wildness of a state park. Birds don’t breed and mate and congregate as freely.

And humans, who may have hiked for a day or two for inaccessible retreats, are now shocked with the intrusion of noise doing violence to the peace. A technical mechanical world, with an invasion that must be horrible for anyone. Especially veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Noise abatement is crucial to well-being. Helicopters are taking without compensation, for profit. If they were silent, I could tolerate it.

What about a Sabbath movement? On Sundays, they don’t fly near parks or trails! One day a week of peace!

Local birds, humans and wildlife need relief from tourist impacts.

The Grand Canyon altered its airspace policies. So can we. Aloha.

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About the Author

  • Virginia Beck
    Virginia Beck is a nurse practitioner and certified Trager practitioner. After three continents and four islands, she has lived on Kauai nearly 50 years. A speaker for those with no voices, she ardently supports preservation of Kauai’s natural and cultural treasures. She writes for several online publications, and is working on several books.