Singing Sands

Singing sand (or barking sand) is sand that makes a sound when it is ‘activated’. In dunes, sand can be made to sing by the wind or when avalanches occur. On the beach the sand is usually heard when walking across or scraping it. Not all sands sing, it requires an even grain size, a high level of silica and the right humidity for it to sound. The pitch of the sand depends on the size of the grain, the larger the grain the lower the pitch. There are many written accounts of singing sands in science and literature. Stonemason, author and geologistย Hugh Miller describes the singing sands of Eigg as ‘a shrill, sonorous noteโ€™ in his book ‘The Cruse of the Betsy’.

In collaboration with geologist Sylvia Humphrey, this project explored the singing sands of Northumberland which occur at specific points along the north-east coastline.

In this video, the images were generated by putting singing sand under the microscope to explore the sands micro-structure. The sounds were recorded at Briar Dene beach, North of Whitley Bay in Tyneside.

Tyne and Wear Archives have a large and diverse collection of singing sands which sparked the initial interest for this project.

The project was kindly supported by Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums Try New Things (TNT) initiative.

For more information on this project see Sylvia Humphries informative blog posts: