Singing Sands -
It is a rare and eerie phenomena indeed known only in a few sand areas of the world. And the dune areas along the Oregon Coast are one of those areas. The National Dunes Reserve near Florence Oregon has also experienced this weird sensation. Other areas around the world include the Great Sand Desert of Australia, the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and the Empty-Quarter of the Sahara Desert. It is the unique audible sensation known as "singing sand". It is so rare that it is often not commonly discussed because so few have heard it.
It occurs under some pretty rare circumstances with different variables in play. The humidity has to be just right. The wind direction and speed also has to be perfect. There are multiple layers and densities of moist and dry sand involved, at least two and sometimes more, with one laying loosely on top of the other. There must also be movement of the sand by wind. The singing sounds are created when by the sand movement, the granules of different sizes and densities become airborne, even if ever so slightly and collide with each other. Again the humidity, wind speed and sand density all play an important and simultaneous interacting role. The choir-like singing sounds have also been likened to distant mythological sirens or violins. There is another type of sound also of a similar phenomena known to be caused by the stirring up of the sand by way of human feet or other body movement such as sliding down a sand dune. This sound can also be a little spooky and is more like a squeaking sound, more common in sandy dune areas.
To achieve the singing-type sound, the wind must start slowly. The stirring of the sand by a gentle wind will start this process and if the wind gathers speed and the moisture content of the different layers and types of sand are extreme enough, that choir sound can turn into a musical timbre crescendo that can sound like a ensemble of flutes or trombones playing in harmony. The sound can last for days in different frequencies and has been recorded to cause men to go mad. The Venetian explorer Marco Polo in his travels to China recorded this sound in written documentation some 800 years ago in the Mongolian Gobi Desert.
Over the years this sound has been heard in the sand dunes of Cannon Beach, shown here in the photo at sunset. In the earlier parts of this century, the singing sand sound of Cannon Beach was apparently more prevalent and lead several lodging establishments to name themselves "The Singing Sands" to stir business as an added tourist attraction. While most of these businesses have long since gone, a few still exist with that name.