Noise in Dorrigo National Park
World Heritage-listed rainforest
We arrive early for our walk, the only car in the carpark, then as we set off a Ute roars in. We walk the Skyway look to the horizon over the canopy rippling east to a white band of sea. To the north Dome Farm is an oasis of bright green for sale. Walking back to terra firma we pass the Ute driver wearing headphones working a leaf blower, the bird song is blanked, I put my hands to my ears as I pass him letting off 75 dB.
The angry noise fades as we descend down the escarpment into forest thick with vines and large trees embossed with rich green epiphytes. Mobs of small birds are calling: thornbills, Rufous and Grey Fantails, both scrubwrens and one Spectacled Monarch. We are immersed in a gentle chamber work of high notes and arpeggios which I imagine spreading out like ripples as if musical stones are dropping into a lake, before Whipbirds take over. A male chases a female up and around a tree covered in small ferns, sounding off at 75 dB, just off the track.
By Tristania Falls, the heel of my hands squeeze my ears again, they were hurting. It’s a bumper year for cicadas, one of those six or seven year cycles. I look for nymphs hatching but am probably too late. Males calling for mates at 120dB can be heard two and half kilometres away. The falls are working at a reduced volume of water silently.
Further along the track we hear the first Lyre Bird, going through its extensive repertoire with plenty of metallic bowerbird elements. A Brush Turkey grunts at the sight of us, and then King Parrots’ musical piccolos pour song down onto our heads.
We are climbing now, and the day has hotted up. A solitary pademelon ambles down the slope, but we can’t hear it against the rasping screech of a Catbird, close by but invisible in the thick growth.
After a slow four hour walk we arrive back up at the top again, tired and thirsty. We take a table in the café, the only one left in the shade. The next two tables are rocking with screaming toddlers. And people think cities are noisy . . . and I think of the war on terror. The use of heavy metal in Guantánamo Bay and Iraq: Deicide, Eminem, Drowning Pool, Nine Inch Nails and Metallica – noise as a weapon of war.