This Is What It Sounds Like When Dunes Groan

George Vlad files a report from Namibia

George Vlad reports from the desert of Namibia, where he recorded this hour of what sand dunes sound like. He identifies the locations as Dune 45 and the Skeleton Coast, and explains that the audio was taped both above- and belowground. The extended length of the document suits Vlad’s experience, which he says involves the ears adjusting over time to the environment and recognizing detail that at first is invisible:

“Spend a little time letting your ears become accustomed to the sparse soundscape though. After a few hours you’ll start hearing more and more detail where previously there seemed to be none. There’s a constant low frequency energy caused by the movement of air and sometimes by the sand dune itself resonating. The wind ebbs and flows at various speeds, occasionally spraying sand on to the hard crust of the sand dune. The insects flying by offer a sense of scale and immediacy.”

Two thirds of the recording was accomplished with microphones designed for use underwater, what are called hydrophones, here pushed deep into the sand. The result is, as he notes, often “abstract,” the wind muted at the surface, and the audio less immediately identifiable. Where above there is air and texture, below there is an ever-threatening churn, what Vlad likens to a “groan.” On his website,, he explains that these are a subset of audio captured at almost a dozen sites around the country.

Audio posted at George Vlad’s YouTube channel. He’s based in Guildford, England.

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