New Zealand is Droning

Apparently this sound (which I can only hear through headphones) is causing quite a stir in the northern districts of Auckland. The sound is so maddening, it seems, that it's inspired some residents "to take drastic action" – which, in one case, means purposefully deafening oneself with the roar of chainsaws.
In fact, "for those who can hear it, the sound is the bane of their lives."


The sound also reveals where unexplained acoustic phenomena, dishonesty, and urban real estate intersect: "Some have been reticent to give away more details of their predicament for fear that reports of persistent humming could adversely affect the resale price of their homes."
One of the researchers trying to locate the sound's origins "rules out geological factors. 'It's more likely to be things like pipes under the ground – you know, gas pipes, sewerage pipes, factories in the distance.'" CIA installations, perhaps.
"This is not the first incidence of humming in New Zealand," we're told. Oh, no. "In 2005, New Zealand author Rachel McAlpine wrote a book called The Humming... largely inspired by the author's own experiences in the seaside town of Puponga on the northwest tip of New Zealand's south island which was itself at the centre of a humming mystery some years back." That man was later arrested.
In McAlpine's novel we read how "life is becoming increasingly frustrating for [a character named] Ivan because he is plagued by an underground humming that he tries to disguise with an increasingly bizarre array of devices."
If it were my story to re-tell, however, Ivan would soon become so unbelievably good at manufacturing sonic camouflage that he turns into the terror of post-Blair Great Britain. (He moves to Britain). Completely silent, exploding noiseless weaponry over the city of Birmingham, Ivan's Joseph Conrad-inspired, acoustically avant-garde ransom demands are met not with payment stashed inside a pre-arranged safety deposit box – but by a visit from a certain, rather well-known, secret agent of the crown... Unfortunately, James Bond is almost immediately captured – having been dumbfounded by a house full of mirrored rooms, someone else's mobile phone, and a weird echo, coming as if from behind him, that induces a state of cognitive paralysis. Bond is then subjected to a series of unbearable noise-tortures, leading some in the audience to laugh and others to accuse the film of being an unacknowledged remake of The Ipcress File. But, once the enemy is brought back on screen, transformed by his life of sonic dissimulation, he addresses Bond through a grotesque series of hand-held voice-cancellation machines – and we see that something altogether more terrifying has been planned...
Of course, it has long been known that if you "listen carefully... you can hear the Earth singing quietly to itself."
    They live underground. They are everywhere but seem to come from nowhere. They barely exist, but never leave. If sounds have shadows, they are the shadows of a sound. Researchers call them the background free oscillations of the Earth.
These "background free oscillations," however, while more or less totally unrelated to the New Zealand drone, discussed above, are also unexplained. This endless terrestrial resonance could be "buildings shuddering in the wind," for instance – or it could be "the constant throb of fluctuating atmospheric pressure all over the Earth." It could even be the combined effect of all the oceans' waves crashing on all the earth's shores simultaneously. It could even – though let me pull the blinds closed as I write this – it could even be the rumble of invisible stealth bombers breaking the sound barrier out at sea...

(Thanks, Marcus! Earlier: Sound Dunes, Dolby Earth, and so on).

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11 Comments:

Blogger Alexander Trevi said...

I think this calls for water features. Fountains galore to outdo even the most Mannerist of Mannerist Italian gardens or the most paradisical of Mughal gardens. Fight the impending drone with landscape architecture.

And for the mobile, there's a wearable version.

October 26, 2006 3:51 PM  
Anonymous tim said...

wow thats quite a drone. The side effect of a secret communication device clearly. Like some sort of advanced ELF line. Or some steve reich (or any other minimalist composer) fan's large scale subversive sound art installation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extremely_low_frequency

October 27, 2006 1:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought I read something about the mating call of some fish that was reverberating up the pipes in a similar droning incident. No kidding.

October 27, 2006 12:32 PM  
Blogger Geist said...

Quite possibly the "creature" in Kafka's The Burrow was not paranoid at all, but really DID hear the "droning of the earth"?

October 27, 2006 2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Auckland isn't New Zealands's capital. Wellington is the capital.

http://202.7.7.90:7000/ntn/ntn-20061027-0939-Mystery_Hum-064.mp3 is a radio segment on the hum from yesterday.

October 27, 2006 6:38 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Thanks for the link - and sorry about the mis-statement vis-a-vis national capitals. Fixed it.

And here's that MP3 in direct link form.

October 27, 2006 6:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well that high def digital recorder noted on top link is old tascam dap1 dat recorder :).. noisy old thing...

October 27, 2006 7:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here in Roberts Creek, about 30 miles north-west of Vancouver International Airport (and all of that distance the open waters of Georgia Strait), it is quite easy to hear the deep rumble of jets taking off to the east, when the winds blow from the south-east, which they predominately from September to April. A good cloud cover enhances the effect. I can lie in bed, (our bedroom being in the south-east corner of the house) and clearly hear the large jets taking off, plus the necessary time lag.

For years there have been rumors of rumbling sounds in Roberts Creek, a rural area on the Sunshine Coast, famed for hippies, wooded clearings with cabins and grow-ops and goats.

How does the area in Auckland relate to their airport or other large producers of noise (surf on beaches, etc.)?

October 28, 2006 2:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The airport is in South Auckland, a long way from the parts of Auckland experiencing the drone. There is a small military airport to the NW at Whenuapai, but there aren't exactly jets landing there.

The surf beaches are all to the west, and there is a substantial range of hills between Auckland and the west coast. Aucklanders know what the surf sounds like.

October 28, 2006 8:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It remembers me a double compilation released in 2004 or 2005, inspired by drones from outerspace... and released on a label based in... New Zealand :)
It's called "The Tone of the Universe = The Tone of the Earth", released on Pseudo Arcana.
http://www.sphosting.com/pseudoarcana/current.htm

October 30, 2006 8:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From what I understand, this particular humming is popping up all around the world (quite a few cases in the United States and China, as well). There seems to be a correlation between the humming and the number of HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) projects being undertaken around the globe.

HAARP is also quite interesting from an architectural standpoint..

check 'er out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HAARP

November 03, 2006 7:09 PM  

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