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World's Best Echoes
An echo is a reflection of sound. It comes back to the listener after the initial sound was made. Certain conditions must exist for the eerie phenomenon of an echo to take place. The sound must travel the right distance and it must be able to bounce back. To do that the sound must hit a smooth flat surface and all other sounds must be absorbed. Snow is a great absorber. Have you ever noticed how quiet it is after snowfall? Finally there must be an amplification of the sound caused by the bouncing off of other smooth surfaces. There are places around the world where conditions are perfect for echoes. Here are some of the best.
Three Sisters - Australia -
The Three Sisters is a rock formation formed by erosion in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia. It is the perfect backdrop for both scenery and echo lovers. Because the Three Sisters is made up of soft sandstone, erosion continues to change its nature but the sounds from nearby Echo Point remain spectacular. Legend has it that the Three Sisters were formed when three sisters from one tribe fell in love with three brothers from a forbidden tribe and were turned to stone by an elder to protect them. He was killed and there was no one to turn them back.
El Castillo, Chichen Itza, Mexico -
The Kukulkan Pyramid is one of the most visited Mayan sites in Mexico and one of the seven New Wonders of the World. When you stand at the bottom of the stairs and clap your hands, a distorted echo sounding like a chirping bird immediately follows. It is not known if the pyramid was deliberately constructed to create this sound or not. The sound of the handclap reflects off the tread of the stairs causing the distortion. The temple was originally built as a temple for the Mayan feathered snake god, Kukulkan. It is an amazing example of architecture and cultural history.
St. Paul's Cathedral - London
The Whispering Gallery in St. Paul's Cathedral in London, England is as awesome as the structure it is in. High up in the central dome of the city's iconic building the acoustics are such that a mere whisper will echo around the room. The sound moves from one side of the gallery to the other without losing clarity. To reach the Whispering Gallery, visitors must climb a spiral staircase of 259 steps. The dome was designed by Christopher Wren and completed in 1710.
Bell Caves - Israel -
Though most cavenous spaces create echoes and reverberant sound, the acoustic effects at Bell Caves in Beit Guvrin, Israel are unusual and unique. Because the cave's chambers are connected by a network of passageways, sounds travel eerily and distinctly from one chamber to the other. The walls in the Bell Caves are over sixty feet tall and are made up of beige limestone. These bell-shaped caves were once quarries that date back to the 4th century BC.
Greenwich Foot Tunnel - London -
It's hard to resist the urge to whoop and shout when you are in a tunnel. The Greenwich Foot Tunnel beneath the Thames River in London is the perfect place to do just that. The hard tiled surfaces and length of the tunnel causes sound to bounce back and forth for a very long time before it fades. Echoes are cool enough but long echoes are awesome. Familiar sounds can also become distorted here. It's a great place for a soundscape experience.
Gol Gumbaz Mausoleum - Bijapur, India -
This 17th century mausoleum is not only an impressive ediface but offers the echo lover a very different sound experience. It boasts the second largest dome in the world. But its whispering gallery is second to none in clarity. What is truly unique is the repeating quality of echoes in this building. Sound continues to bounce around the dome causing it to buzz by your ear three or four times a second. If you are lucky enough to get there when there are minimal crowds, the repeating echo may come back up to ten times before it disappears.
Triple Echo Stones - Beijing, China -
Due to ingenious design and the right conditions, three stone plates on the road connecting the Imperial Heavenly Vault and the Gate in Beijing offer a different echo encounter. Clap your hands while standing on the first stone and you'll hear one echo. Clap your hands on the second and you'll hear two. Clapping your hands on the third will offer three echoes. The Temple of Heaven where the road is located in southeastern Beijing is actually a complex of Taoist buildings. It was considered a place of worship and the layout was built with symbolic indications.
Grand Canyon - U.S.A
What better backdrop to hear an echo than the spectacular Grand Canyon in Arizona. Millions of years of erosion have carved majestic rock walls some over a mile high. It is an ideal place to hear echoes since the canyon is up to 18 miles wide in some areas and is quiet. Sound will bounce from rock wall to rock wall. This amazing geological formation is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and remains impressive.
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