The Sound of a Glacier

What does a glacier sound like?

The sound of a glacier moving is mesmerizing and humbling.  We were crossing the Ngozumpa Glacier in the Nepalese Himalaya, when we passed close to a glacial pool and heard a curious sound.  It sounded like the cross between a gulp and a boom.

“Wow, could that be the ice?” we asked each other, wide-eyed.  We stayed silent for a few moments and sure enough, the odd noise happened again, louder this time.  

Those who know me know I am fascinated by geology.  So naturally, I was very excited our trek would lead us over a glacier.  I was already primed to take home many photographs.  Never did I imagine, however, that I would have the opportunity to hear and record the sound of a glacier.  As we stood there and listened to the odd booms and gurgles of the glacier, the idea came into both our heads at the same time.

“Babe, you should record this,” he said looking over at me.  “Yep, already on it,” I said, already reaching into my jacket to grab my recorder.  In 5 minutes I was off the path, sliding down a slope of loose rock, and finding a place to position the microphone directly across the glacial pool.

The soundscape below is the audio I captured coming from within the Ngozumpa Glacier.  You can hear the tinkle of melting ice, the strange booming sound that still confounds me, the occasional stone slipping down the ice cliff.  What is most amazing to me, however, is what I discovered after the fact.

Two weeks later I was in a hotel room in India, working on organizing and mixing all the audio I had captured in Nepal.  I came to this clip and began working on balancing its frequencies.  As I was working, I tried increasing the low-end bass frequencies, those frequencies that we could not hear standing on the glacier, but my microphone could.  What emerged had my geology-loving, glacier-fascinated self sitting full back in her chair, absolutely mesmerized.  You can very clearly hear the deep and powerful sound of the glacier grinding along its path.

This is absolutely the soundscape I am most proud of capturing so far; I hope you find it as fascinating and powerful as I do.