The Singing Sands Of Oregon Is A Strange Phenomenon You Need To Hear To Believe

What is this ghostly singing coming from the dunes? Is it the same as the squeaking sands heard at Cannon Beach?

Sand Dunes Near Florence Oregon. Photo by Barbara Luef via Flickr CC2.

If you've ever been to the Oregon Dunes near Florence Oregon you may have been one of the lucky few who experienced a strange phenomenon known as singing sands. What causes the sands to sing their ghostly song and why is it so rare? Are singing sands and squeaking sands the same?

Your Best Chance To Hear Singing Sand At The Oregon Dunes Is In Late Summer

There are many theories for why the sands sing, but it's well known that several things have to align to make it happen, including having the correct type of sand and size of sand particles, and the sand having just the right amount of moisture.

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Photo by Dr._Coleen_Morgan via Flickr CC2.

The wind blows sand around at the Oregon Dunes and the sand collects until it reaches a slope angle of around 33 degrees. This is the angle where the sand starts to slide down the surface of the dune in sheets. If the sand is dry enough to move but has just enough moisture to be slightly sticky, it will sing as it slides, making the sound of humming or like a ghostly choir singing. One theory for why this sound happens is that sound waves bounce back and forth between the dry sliding sand, and the wetter layer of sand feet below the surface of the dune, amplifying the sound.

The video below shows a great example of what singing sands sound like in Death Valley:

Because so many conditions have to come together to create singing sands, it's a rare occurrence along the Oregon coast. The best time to try to hear this phenomenon at the Oregon Dunes is in the late summer on a dry day with no fog. Some people have accidentally triggered singing sands by sliding down the dunes and causing the sand to avalanche down the side with them.

Are Singing Sands And Squeaking Sands The Same?

Another interesting sound sometimes heard on Oregon coast beaches is squeaking sands. You may have heard this when walking through dry sand along the beach. The grains of sand rub together and make a high-pitched squeaking sound. This happens most often where the sand grains are all the same size, rounded in shape, and are mostly dry. You can hear this odd squeaking in the video below:

One of the best places to hear squeaking sands on the Oregon coast is Cannon Beach in the dry upper part of the beach above the high tide line. The squeaking sands phenomenon isn't as rare to hear as singing sands, but it may still take you several trips to Cannon Beach to hear it only once.

Have you experienced singing sands or squeaking sands along the Oregon coast before? Let us know where you experienced these in a comment!