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Source of Sand Dune 'Songs' Revealed November 2, 2012
San Dune
Sand dunes sing in only a few areas of the world, and their songs are always a low, droning sound.
Scientists say they have discovered why some sand dunes seem to “sing” at specific frequencies — a mystery pondered by such historic figures as Marco Polo and Charles Darwin.

Both encountered at least the legend of singing dunes during their travels in various parts of the world.

Researchers at Paris Diderot University in France say that dunes sing in only a few areas around the world — always in a low, droning pitch within the bottom half of a cello’s musical range.

They found that the size of the grains of sand in those dunes determines the exact pitch as wind or other factors cause the sand to cascade down the slopes of the dunes.

Earlier beliefs that avalanches of sand created vibrations within the dunes themselves were proven wrong by the latest research.

But it is possible there is some “resonate” interaction between the tumbling sand on the surface and a thin layer of stationary sand on the dunes’ surface, researchers say.

The findings are published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. To hear the sand dunes singing, go here.

Photo: Paris Diderot University