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sossusvlei

Sound recording & camping in the African wilderness – Part 2: Namibia & South Africa

Read part I about recording & camping in Botswana here

Namibia is a land of extremes: huge empty deserts with glowing red sand dunes and rock formations shaped as if placed by giants, a wild coastline littered with shipwrecks, whale carcasses and immense seal colonies, lakes and salt pans attracting all the wildlife that you’d expect from an African country, and lush green tree and shrub savanna in the Caprivi strip bordering Botswana, Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Its natural extremities not withstanding, this is a country easily traversed by car, boasting endless straight-lined gravel roads through its vast expanses of nothingness and national parks. Unlike Botswana, a 4×4 vehicle is for many areas not even a necessity, though having one opens up parts of the country that would otherwise be inaccessible. As for our trip specifically, we only needed the 4-wheel drive engaged on a couple of trails in Namib-Naukluft national park.

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pondlife

Hydrophone recordings: farting plants & screeching beetles

In June 2014 I took my hydrophones to a likely looking lake and started fishing for sound. It already being past the explosion of life that is spring I wasn’t sure if I’d encounter much pond dwelling activity underneath the surface, but it turned out I did not need to worry. As soon as I threw the mics in the water, a previously hidden world of sonic richness came to the fore, full of surprising little clicks, squeaks and screeches originating from water beetles and plants.

Headphones are recommended to appreciate all the subtle and quiet detail in the following recordings.

 

The almost creature-like pitch bending whine that you can hear in the left channel from the start of this recording is a plant letting off gas – a plant farting, yes. A fancier way of putting it is that this is somewhat ‘the sound of photosynthesis’, as oxygen is released as a waste product during the photosynthesis procedure.

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hydros01

Hydrophones – beginner experiments

Today, I made a little trip to the beach. Earlier in the morning I had received two hydrophones in the post that I ordered from Jez riley French, and I was eager to try them out.

I’ve never owned or used hydrophones before, so this was all purely an experiment. I pretty much plugged the two of them into the pebbles, spaced approx a meter and a half apart, rolled back the cable towards the recorder, and hit record, whilst adjusting the levels. I clearly need some practice with all of this – these cables are 10 meters each and I was fiddling about quite a lot before I had them untied.

When I was finally ready to record, I noticed there was some sort of buzzing tone or interference in the signal which I couldn’t directly locate – and I didn’t feel like getting my shoes off again to go back into the cold British sea’s water and mess with the hydrophones to see if it had any effect. I decided to just let the recording roll.

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