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Earth Songs: Acoustic Wonders of the Natural World

We all know that this beautiful planet of ours can be a true feast for the eyes. From the splendor of spring flowers in bloom to the magnificence of the blazing sky at sunset, you don’t have to venture far from your own back door to experience the majesty of nature. It’s not only our eyes that get to drink in the wonder of the natural world. Our planet also gifts our ears with an abundance of acoustic delights to savor. This article explores some of nature’s most fascinating, and sometimes quite unexpected, acoustic phenomena.

Droning Dunes

Sand dunes in the Sahara Desert, Merzouga, Morocco
Sand dunes in the Sahara Desert, Merzouga, Morocco

From northern Africa to east Asia to the American southwest, the Earth is populated by massive sand dune systems that have a lot to say for themselves. These massive sand dunes are known to sing, drone, and even boom. These acoustic wonders are thought to derive from sand “avalanches,” the acoustic reverberations caused by each shifting grain. Each “performance” of the voluble dunes is shaped by a variety of factors, from atmospheric conditions, such as humidity, temperature, wind speed, and direction, to the shape of the dune itself. That means that the droning dunes aren’t just a fascinating natural phenomenon, but they’re also a veritable case study of the extraordinary science of sound!

Capricorn Caves

Capricorn Caves in Rockhampton, Queensland
Capricorn Caves in Rockhampton, Queensland

Cave systems provide some of the most astonishing acoustic phenomena in the natural world. When you think about it, the reason is pretty clear. The depth and shape of cave formations, combined with the hard, unique surfaces of the walls, ceiling, and floor, can provide ideal conditions for soundwaves to reflect and reverberate, amplifying and transmitting sound in fascinating and often unexpected ways. Add to this the atmospheric conditions found in many cave systems–the dense, cool, humid air is the perfect medium for the transmission of sound.

Take, for example, Capricorn Caves in Queensland, Australia. This massive and ancient labyrinth is so celebrated for its perfect acoustics that, for more than a decade, it has played host to the famed Underground Opera Company. Deep inside these underground caverns, some of the world’s most magnificent voices find new resonance, literally and figuratively. For audiences and performers, the result is a musical experience like no other. For acoustic scientists and soundscape engineers, cave systems such as these provide a case study for designing spaces that emulate and echo the acoustic perfections of nature.

Bat Sonar

Bats are remarkable little creatures. They’re among the few species of land animals to rely primarily on echolocation to “see” the world and move through their environment. 

The bat resides largely in darkness and ventures out to feed primarily at night, and that means it must rely on senses other than sight to negotiate its environment, find food and water, and protect itself from predators. 

Echolocation (aka bat sonar) allows these tiny and often remarkably docile creatures to do just that, emitting soundwaves that bounce off nearby surfaces and reflect back to the vocalizing bat. This allows the bat not only to detect obstacles in its path but also to determine the size and shape of the object. With the aid of something as seemingly (deceptively) simple as bouncing soundwaves, bats can hunt, find a mate, communicate with one another, evade predators, and make their way back to their habit–all in nearly total darkness!

Northern Lights

Aurora borealis on the Beach in Lofoten islands, Norway
Aurora borealis on the Beach in Lofoten islands, Norway

The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, may well be among the most magical and mesmerizing of natural phenomena, a sight that inspires admirers to travel thousands of miles simply to take in nature’s most marvelous light show. But did you know that the northern lights do far more than dance? Did you know that the northern lights also sing?

Researchers studying the acoustics of the auroras have found that strong auroras don’t just boast a kaleidoscope of colors but also a vast symphony of sound. There’s evidence that the auroras naturally produce a variety of noises, from hissing to crackling to whistling. The strongest light shows have even been known to produce a kind of clapping sound, as if Nature itself were giving the auroras a richly-deserved ovation.

Whale Song

Humpback whale breaching and landing in Isla de la Plata Ecuador
Humpback whale breaching and landing in Isla de la Plata Ecuador

Of all the world’s acoustic wonders, there are perhaps none quite so captivating as that of whale song. It’s been the subject of scientific study for years, and we are only just beginning to probe the depth of its mysteries. What we do know, though, is that it’s beautiful, complex, and powerful. 

There is evidence, for instance, that the low-frequency vocalizations of the humpback whale can travel a distance of 10,000 miles! That means that humpback whales may truly have the loudest and most powerful voice in the entire animal kingdom!

Of course, it’s not only the whale who enjoys pride of place in the undersea acoustic world. Dolphins and other deep-sea dwelling creatures also enjoy a remarkable aptitude for producing, detecting, and processing sound. 

It’s not difficult to understand why. The deep ocean is among the darkest habitats on earth. It’s also among the noisiest. Sunlight disappears entirely at a depth of around 1,000 meters, marking a boundary known as the “aphotic zone,” meaning that neither navigation nor communication by sight is possible for creatures residing at this depth. Enter acoustics and the remarkable speed and distance at which sound waves travel underwater–nearly five times the speed at which sound travels on land under average conditions.

The incredible speed of sound waves traveling through water is only half the story. The distance at which whale songs and other aquatic creatures’ vocalizations can be heard can also be attributed to another remarkable feature of our natural world: the SOFAR sound channel. The SOFAR channel is a deep ocean zone in which the temperature, density, and salinity of the water are ideal for the transmission of sound waves–the conditions so acoustically perfect, in fact, is the SOFAR channel that some low-frequency sound waves may travel across the entire ocean basin before dissipating!

Singing Trees

Earth Songs: Acoustic Wonders of the Natural World

The hush of the wind whispering through the trees is perhaps one of the most soothing sounds on earth and the lulling effects of such murmuring quiet can go far in explaining why engaging with nature is so beneficial for our mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing (1, 2).

But the rustling of the wind is by no means the only way the voice of the forest can be heard. In fact, trees don’t just speak; they “sing,” their vibrations creating soundwaves that aren’t detectable to human ears–unless, that is, you take a trip to beautiful northern Italy and the picturesque forests of Damanhur. 

There, you’ll find vast woodlands outfitted with state-of-the-art acoustic technologies designed to convert the plants’ electromagnetic pulses into sound. At Damanhur, you’ll literally be surrounded by a symphony of trees!

Acoustic Wonders at Home and Work

The world is replete with natural wonders, and the incredible acoustic phenomena that make our Earth the fascinating soundscape it is have also inspired some of the most important innovations in acoustic design. In fact, Biophilic design is a practice that incorporates elements of the natural world through the use of shapes, colors, textures, and even sounds and scents derived from nature to create comfortable, inviting spaces. 

FSorb is proud to lead the way, creating eco-friendly acoustic solutions that are both inspired by the natural world and dedicated to the protection of it. Contact your local FSorb representative today to explore FSorb’s acoustic solutions!



At FSorb, we are motivated by improving human health and do so by creating eco-friendly acoustic products. Our mission is to help designers build beautiful spaces that reduce excess ambient noise while calming the human nervous system. With over 25 years in the acoustic business we stand behind FSorb as a durable, environmentally friendly, and low-cost product. If you want an acoustic solution that is safe to human health at an affordable price, then we are your resource.

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  1. Siah CJR, Goh YS, Lee J, Poon SN, Ow Yong JQY, Tam WW. The effects of forest bathing on psychological well-being: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Ment Health Nurs. 2023 Aug;32(4):1038-1054. doi: 10.1111/inm.13131. Epub 2023 Mar 2. PMID: 36864583.

  2. Hansen MM, Jones R, Tocchini K. Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing) and Nature Therapy: A State-of-the-Art Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 Jul 28;14(8):851. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14080851. PMID: 28788101; PMCID: PMC5580555.


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