The Man Who Collects Sounds
(Excerpt:) We began our journey the way most visitors to Denali National Park and Preserve do — in a car, driving down the bumpy and intermittently paved park road and looking out the window, hoping for a glimpse of bear or moose. The roadside scenery was spectacular, and the gray sky and cold drizzle seemed to encourage me to linger in the sanctuary of the warm vehicle even as the open wilderness of the park beckoned.After a dozen bumpy miles we pulled off to the side of the road and stepped out of the car into the elements, ready to continue our journey on foot. Carrying packs with 30 pounds of gear, we walked for miles up a dry, unnamed riverbed. Every mile, the sounds of the road and civilization faded, and the sounds of the landscape and our own footsteps became more pronounced and detailed.My guide was Davyd Betchkal, a biochemist by training who had a passion for recording bands when he was a college student at the University of Wisconsin in the early 2000s. From that, he branched out into making field recordings and has been a collector of sounds ever since. Betchkal and his assistant are the two people tasked by the National Park Service with documenting the natural soundscapes of Alaska's national parks, an area that covers over 54 million acres and accounts for about 60 percent of all the land the park service manages nationwide. In the Lower 48 there are three people with his job, monitoring the soundscape of parks and other lands managed by the park service.
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