Creating amazing sounds and acoustics is by no means solely the domain of human effort. There are many inanimate structures around the world, either naturally occurring or constructed, which have proved to possess incredible acoustic abilities. Acoustic experts and enthusiasts have documented these amazing occurrences, leading to a new form of specialised tourism. Whereas in the past, travel destinations have always been ranked by their scenic splendour, an increasing number of people are now travelling to locations specifically because of the acoustics.
The great advantage to sound tourism is that it really is a global phenomenon. People do not necessarily have to travel long-haul to exotic destinations in order to experience the wonders of sound. Here are some of the world’s best ‘sound’ locations.
Whispering Gallery, St Paul’s Cathedral, London, England
Arguably the best-known acoustic wonder in the world, the perfectly cylindrical walls of the gallery make it possible for people to stand on opposite sides of the room and hear each other talking in just a whisper.
Abandoned Oil Tank, Inchindown, Scotland
The immense length of this oil tank, buried deep in the Scottish Highlands to protect it from bombing during World War II, ensures that echoes can reverberate for an exceptionally long time. In fact, this abandoned structure now holds the official world record for the longest echo at an amazing 75 seconds.
Singing Sand Dunes, Mojave Desert, California, USA
One of a number of so-called droning dunes around the world, the Kelso Dunes in the Mojave Desert emit a clear, distinct humming sound in certain conditions. Although scientists are still not entirely sure as to the reason for this phenomenon, the humming can be heard when sand tumbles down the dunes.
Singing Bearded Seals, Svalbard, Norway
One of the strangest and most incredible sounds made by any animal is that emitted by the male bearded seal. Unlike any other animal cry, the high-pitched, variable frequency vocalisation of bearded seals trying to attract a mate is more akin to the sound effects of a cheesy science fiction film.
Chirping Mayan Pyramid, Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico
Already regarded as one of the modern wonders of the world, the ancient Mexican site of Chichen Itza features a particular temple with remarkable acoustic abilities. By standing in front of the more than 1000-years old Temple of Kukulcan and clapping, people are greeted with an echo that bears an uncanny resemblance to the chirp of the quetzal bird.
Gong Rocks, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
The Serengeti is home to a number of ancient boulders with note-making ability. When these boulders are struck with smaller stones, they emit a series of rather mellow-sounding notes that are almost akin to those of a steel drum.
Whispering Gallery, Bijapur, India
Similar to the Whispering Gallery at St Paul’s Cathedral, the Gol Gumbaz mausoleum enhances whispering voices by a number of levels. Human voices seem to reverberate in an endless loop, due to the perfectly spherical nature of the structure.
Bubbling Mud Pots, Hverir, Iceland
The volcanic landscape of this region of Northern Iceland is forever alive with the sight and sound of angry cauldrons of mud. Dispensing gas at a furious rate, the mud pots bubble and belch continuously day and night.
Musical Road, Lancaster, California, USA
Officially known as Avenue G, a stretch of this road in the Sunshine State has a set of groves carved into it which create an unmistakable rhythm when driven over. Those choosing to drive their car along this short stretch will be greeted with a fair rendition of the William Tell Overture.
This article has been written by David Ballan, Marketing Manager for IAC Acoustics. IAC Acoustics are the world’s leading provider of noise control products and systems; renowned for their unique music practice room solution.