I’ve always been fascinated by sand dunes, even before I heard them sing.
It had been too long since I’d made a Death Valley trip, so I got in the car early Saturday morning and arrived at Stovepipe Wells at about 2pm. That gave me a few hours of daylight to photograph the Mesquite Flat Dunes. I camped at Furnace Creek that night and headed back to the dunes before dawn on Sunday. A few other photographers were wandering around at sunrise, but just afterwards they left and I had the entire dune field to myself.
Usually nature makes a lot of noise, but when the wind died down that morning it was totally, completely silent. I could literally hear my own heart beating. And something else, too – barely audible, faint enough that I wondered if I was imagining it, a low hum. What was that? A long time ago I read the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and I vaguely remembered it saying something about sand dunes making noise, but maybe that was just part of the story. And yet if I concentrated I could really hear, and almost feel, a buzz in the air – similar to the sound you hear near a power station.
Back home, thinking maybe I’d just imagined it, I typed “sand dunes buzzing sound” into Google and the first result was a great National Geographic article, Why Sand Dunes Go Boom. If you ever have a field of sand dunes all to yourself, stop for a minute and listen closely...