[imagesource: Jeff Lowe / Pixels]
San Francisco’s famous Golden Gate Bridge is adding its voice to the conversation surrounding the ways that the weather and environment are changing.
The strange whine emanating from the bridge, particularly when harsh winds blow, has become a legendary piece of San Francisco’s auditory landscape.
But now a group of the world’s leading bridge aerodynamics and acoustics experts are trying to figure out how to shut it up.
The Guardian has more:
The experts have been contracted to solve the mysterious problem of a strange humming sound that has been emanating from San Francisco’s famous bridge for the past year, driving some nearby residents to a state of madness.
The sound heard only on windy days, has been compared to a “ghostly harmonica”, “chanting monks” and a “wheezing kazoo”.
Here’s a recording from June last year, which illustrates its rather odd nature:
The sound is either loved or hated by anybody who can hear it hum:
Some fans called it the “soothing” song of the bridge. Others dubbed it “creepy” or “unbearable”. One woman simply blamed it on “aliens”.
“It sounded like a noise I could imagine jailers using to torture prisoners,” said one disturbed resident on the social media app NextDoor.
One more example, again from last June:
— Alberto Martinez A (@betogilardino) June 5, 2020
An electronic music producer was even creative enough to mix the hum into a soundtrack of existential dread:
— Mr. Bill (@mrbillstunes) June 10, 2020
On the other side of the fence, another local made a Golden Gate Bridge ambient sound playlist to help listeners on those sleepless nights when the sound is missing, because like it or not, the sound is about to be fixed.
After a fair amount of complaints about the noise nuisance over the past year, bridge officials conducted an investigation and found that the bridge emits a hum at a 440-hertz frequency, which matches the musical note A.
A bridge spokesperson, Paolo Cosulich-Schwartz, has a further explanation:
“After studying this phenomenon extensively, we’ve determined that the sound comes from the new and more aerodynamic railing that we installed on the west sidewalk.”
“It was part of a Golden Gate Bridge retrofit designed to protect the bridge for future generations by allowing it to withstand sustained high winds up to 100mph.”
The new fittings were quickly put in so that the infamous “Gallopin’ Gertie” situation could be avoided, which is a classic engineering school lesson in how not to build a bridge, named so after the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed in the wind in 1940:
“So this was a project that we had to do,” said Cosulich-Schwartz of the Golden Gate Bridge, highway and transit district of last year’s wind resistance retrofit, which cost $12m.
“With the impacts of climate change leading to more severe weather events, there was even more urgency to complete it as soon as possible.”
It’s an odd reaction to protect all the things man has made before fixing climate change, the root cause of all these problems, but okay.
Then again, humans are unpredictably strange.
Another west San Francisco resident, Brianne Howell, said that she liked the sound:
“It reminds me of the eerie sound in a movie when something creepy is going to happen. I think it’s kind of sad to get rid of it.”
It looks like desensitisation runs deep in this one.
Anyway, engineers are testing modifications to the bridge and the sound should soon be a thing of the past.
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