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Sound Tourism: The Coolest Sounds to Hear While Traveling

sound travel

Looking out from a high point on Franz Josef Glacier.

I’d never encountered the phrase “sound tourism” (aka audio tourism) until today; I read them in the March 2014 issue of Discover: Science for the Curious. The phrase appears in an all-too-brief interview with author/acoustic engineer Trevor Cox. It’s so new that, as of right now, not even Wikipedia mentions it.

A Discover magazine writer does a Q & A session with Trevor Cox, and includes a link to some of his favorite sounds. He mentions “booming sand dunes” in the Mojave Desert, the call of a male bearded seal and the Australian whipbird.

Trevor Cox also mentions that many subtle sounds get buried in the din of modern life. He makes a good point. I can’t say I’ve ever traveled anywhere to hear something. But there’s something in travel for everyone – so why not sound tourism?

sound tourism

Volcanic fumaroles make cool noises … and some nasty odors.

If you were to make a sound tourism travel list, what would be on it?

I have a few … mostly just some of the coolest things I’ve heard while traveling:

  • The sounds of glaciers would be a must for sound tourism. I’ve heard cracking and shifting on glaciers in New Zealand and Iceland. And you won’t believe how loud it is when a piece of glacier calves and falls into a lagoon. It’s spectacular, and makes the glacier feel like a living organism. I promise that even the most nature-disinterested person would have a change of heart after a day on a glacier.
  • Also on my sound tourism list would be a visit to Volcan Arenal in Costa Rica. Even if clouds obscure the summit, you’ll love the sound of Volkswagen-sized cinders rumbling down the slopes. If you can see their red-hot glow at night, even better.
  • Last item on my short sound tourism list (which I might add to later) would be coyotes. Many people I meet inaccurately think they howl like wolves. But no … they’re yips and barks are much more eerie, especially since they often travel in packs. Listen to a bunch of coyotes cavort outside your tent while camping, and you’ll understand. Perfect sound tourism!
  • The sound of volcanic fumaroles hissing as they spew gas into the air. They can roar like a jet engine, and be heard for miles. Or they can whisper. It’s the sound of the living earth, and not something I’ll ever forget.
sound tourism

Volcan Arenal spews volcanic bombs that make awesome sounds. (Matthew.landry at English Wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons)

These are not exactly the most subtle sounds. So if you have some sound tourism tips that cover the less obvious sounds, the ones you have to struggle to hear … fill me in.

As for Trevor Cox, I’ll have to check out the sound tourism map on his website. I’ll look forward to what cool ideas I might encounter for future travel that can include some sound tourism. You can also read the Discover magazine story and hear some of Trevor’s favorite sounds.

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