Uncancelling the Noise of Nature

In a recent conversation with a recreation manager for Andersen Air Force Base on the US unincorporated territory of Guam, I learned something which may prove incredibly pertinent to my thesis. At Ritidian Point, the northern-most tip of the 30-mile long island, there is a wildlife center which plays in the background the recorded sounds of extinct birds. These birds became extinct by way of the Brown Tree Snake, thought to be a stow-away on a cargo ship following WWII. The snake has no natural predators on Guam, nor did the endemic species have any natural defense against them. It wasn't until the late 1960s that the populations of the endemic birds noticeably declined. (Another source mentioned that DDT also made a hit on the avian population.) Today, nine of eleven forest-dwelling species have been extirpated, including two species unique to Guam.

The remarkable thing is this: it was the Navy which gave over the sounds of the now-extinct birds. They were recording the birds in the 1950s, according to my source at Andersen, in order to cancel out the background noise in order to listen for Russian and Polish trawlers during the Vietnam War, who were in turn trying to pick up on their radar B-52s flying out of Andersen en route to torching the jungles of North Vietnam. The Navy would then jam the signals of the trawlers.

When the Cold War ended, the Navy listening post and the land at Ritidian Point was turned over to become a Federal Wildlife Preserve, and the sound recordings were thus donated. In this effort, unwittingly, the Navy preserved the sounds of the jungle that would never again be heard.

I'm in the process of looking for these sounds, but if anyone knows something about this please don't hesitate to send me a message. In the meantime, I've been going through my undocumented archives from the past year of travel and pulled up this sound, from the jungles on Okinawa. What I am interested in these nature sounds is the possibility to generate intimate spaces--an architecture--which is produced for enjoyment of the sound. Listen: