This is a literature about singing sand in water. But it is difficult to get it. I reprinted it from the copy for student who have interest to singing sand.


Philosophycal Soc.Proc.Ser.A.[No.21].217-230(1961)

In the "Cruise of the Betsy", published in '1858, Hugh Miller (1) described his dis-covery of "musical" sand on the beaches of the island of Eigg in the Hebrides. His account is so vivid and it describes the phenomenon so exactly that it deserves to be quoted at some length. He writes: "I was turning aside this sand of the Oolite, so curiously reduced to its original state, and marking how nearly the recent shells that lay embedded in it resembled the extinct ones that had lain in it so long before, when I became aware of a peculiar sound that it yielded to the tread, as my companions paced over it. I struck it obliquely with my foot, where the surface lay dry and incoherent in the sun, and the sound elicited was a shrill sonorous note, somewhat resembling that produced by a waxed thread, when tightened between the teeth and the hand, and tipped by th.e nail of the forefinger. I walked over it, striking it obliquely at each step. and with every blow the shrill note was repeated. My companions joined me; and we performed a concert, in which, if we could boast of but little variety in the tones produced, we might at least challenge all Europe for an instrument of the kind which produced them. It seemed less wonderful that there should be music in the granite of Memnon, than in the loose Oolitic sand in the Bay of Laig. As we marched over the drier tracts, an incessant woo,woo, woo, rose from the surface, that might be heard in the calm some twenty or thirty yards away; and we found that where a damp semi-coherent stratum lay at the depth of three or four inches beneath, and all was dry and incoherent, the tones were loudest and sharpest and most easily evoked by th.e foot. Our discovery -for I trust I may regard it as such- adds a third locality to two previously known ones, in which what may be termed the musical sand-no unmeet counterpart to the 'singing water' of the tale-has now been found. And as the island of Eigg is consideraby more accessible than Jabel Nakous in Arabia Petraea, or Reg-Rawan in the neighbourhood of Cabul, there must be facilties presented through the discovery which did not exist hitherto, for examining the phenomenon in acoustics which it exhibits-a phenomenon, it may be added, which some of our greatest masters of the science have confcssed their inabillty to explain". More than a hundred years have elapsed since that was written but the phenomenon . still remains largely without complete explanation. It is hoped that the experimental work described in this and the succeeding paper will be a significant contribution to the ultimate explantion of the phenomenon. The next reference to musical sand which we have been able to find is of particular local interest; a reader of the above account of the Eigg musical sand actually discovered some at Briar Dene, Whitley Bay. This was Dr. J. Carrick Murray, a Newcastle physician of some note, who communicated his discovery to Tomlinson. It appears in "Tomlinson's Guide to Northumberland." (2), published in 1888, as follows: "singing sands, are to be found at Whitley on the way to St. Mary's Island. This sound is not musical but rather a harsh whining, or as Miller in his 'Cruise of the Betsy' calls it, a "woo. Woo, woo". It is most marked when walking over or rather through thc high dry oolite sand beyond the slipping stones at the Briar Dene just below where the volunteers camp". It is significant that Dr. Murray and other later observers have described the exact spot on the beaches where musical sand is to be found. Some, e.g. Bagnold (3), have indeed described its occurrence as rare; they have drawn conclusions as to the nature of the phenomenon on this assumption. We now know however that musical sand is far from rare; it is to be found in many parts of the coast of Northumberland, throughout the whole of Cardigan Bay in Wales and in some parts of the South Coast. It is not unlikely that furthcr investigation would reveal its presence elsewhere in thc British Isles; some time ago it was found in the U.S.A., in Japan and in Africa (see Lewis, 4); it has recently been discovered in Russia (sec Velikii, 5). Locally, Mr. D. W. Collinson found some musical sand at Dunstanburgh. Dr. F. J. McQuillin has noticed it at Druridge Bay and Dr. F. J. Lowes at Seaton Sluice; Mr. O. Darbyshire has kindly found some for us at Briar Dene at that part of the. shore indicated by Dr. Carrick Murray in about 1870. We have found it at Bamburgh, Alnmouth, Blyth, Whitley Bay, Cullercoats and Tynemouth. The late Professor E. G. Richardson, who took a kindly interest in this work, mentioned that he had found musical sand at Alnmouth but that when he brought some of it to the laboratory it ceased to sound. The frst to make the sand sing in the laboratory was Cecil Carus-Wilson (6); his article, in "Nature" in 1891 records much of what was known about musical sand before this investigation began. Like other observers, Carus-Wilson specifics the exact spot on the beach at Studland Bay where he found the sand and so indeed do Poynting and Thomson (7) who describe the particular spot on the coast near Barmouth in North Wales where the sand was to be found. Carus-Wilson showed that musicaf sand had the following characteristics : 1. The grains were rounded, polished and free from fine fragments. 2. The sand was nearly all within a certain narrow range ofsize. 3. The ability to "sing" was destroyed by constant pounding but restored after the fine fragments produced by the pounding were removed by sieving, washing, or boiling. He produced the sound by plunging a pestle into sand contained in an evaporating dish. We have used the same method and have been able to confirm many of his results. We have not, however, found, as he suggests, that the sound cannot be produced if the vessel containing the sand is lined with silkor cotton material. We have lined the various containers of the sand with silk, cotton and other materials and we still obtain the sound. A lining ofwoollen material, however, hinders the production of the sound. We confirm his statement that the sound cannot be due to the vibration of the containing vessel ; we. find, as he did, that "damping" any possible vibration of the vessel has no effect on the production of the sound. We also find that the note is less satisfactory when smooth glazed pestles are uscd. In 1908 the geological composition of musical sand, found in the U.S.A. on the coast of Maine, was described by Skinner (8) and again the exact locality where it was to be found was given. Since that time it has been found in many other parts ofthe U.S.A. Two years later, in 1910, one us us found that musical sand was widely 'distributed along the shores of Cardigan Bay in Wales. It was, in fact, much more widely distributed than had previously been supposed. He was also able to show that there was a relation between the area of sand struck and the pitch of the predominant note produced; the wider the vessel containing the sand or the broader the pestle, the lower the note. In the course of seven experiments (Thomas, 9) the frequenby of the note ranged from about 1280 to 2300 cls. In his authorative book on Desert Sands, R. A. Bagnold (8) adds, at {he request of the publishers, a final chapter on SiDging Sands. His statement on p. 250 that "the phenomenon is very rare" is at variance with the findings of other workers in this field (lO). So is his remark on p. 248 that when the sand is removed from the beach for experiment the sound making property does not last. We find that, in most cases, it does last. Indeed sands from the Japanese beachcs gave a good note after their journey by air from Japan. While we agree that the exact common characteristics of singing sands have not yet been established, it is clear that many of the conditions necessary for the sounding of the sand outlined by Calus-Wilson in 1891 are still valid. That the singing sands of the sea-shore have a common characteristic is suggested by the work recently carried out in Japan where singing sand from the i;sland of Eigg has been compared with that from beaches on the coast of Japan. (Some general interest in .this phenomenon was aroused in Japan;