Video

Sand tunes: Jay visits the singing sands of Basin Head

The footprints along the beach at Basin Head Provincial Park are a little different from those at other beaches — because visitors drag their feet to maximize the singing of the singing sands.

Locals have dubbed the way they walk on the singing sands as the 'Basin Head shuffle'

On a sunny summer day, the sand at Basin Head will squeak or sing on almost every footstep. (Submitted by Souris and Area branch of the P.E.I. Wildlife Federation)

The footprints along the beach at Basin Head Provincial Park are a little different from those at other beaches — because visitors drag their feet to maximize the singing of the singing sands.

"I noticed a few interesting footprints on the beach," said CBC meteorologist Jay Scotland. "I guess it's the technique, the style, that folks walk on the beach to maximize that singing sound from the sand. It's become a local dance craze from what I understand."

Scotland, with the help of Frances Braceland and Keila Miller — both project managers with the Souris and Area branch of the P.E.I. Wildlife Federation — learned to master that dance, which has been dubbed the "Basin Head shuffle" by locals. 

Jay learns the 'Basin Head shuffle' 0:56

"You drag your feet through the dry sand and it makes a swishing, whistling noise," Miller said. "It's like you're dragging your feet, it's not just an imprint, it's a drag. You have to shuffle along."

"It's more like a squeaking really, singing is a bit too good of a word for it," Braceland said.

A rare phenomenon

Braceland said no one knows exactly what causes the singing, but there are a few different theories. One is that tiny pockets of air get trapped between the grains of sand to make the squeaking noise, while another revolves around the sand itself — that it's the friction between the grains that makes it squeak.

Jay Scotland shows off his "weather socks" as he gets set to try the Basin Head shuffle. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

There are several prerequisites for the sand to sing, according to Braceland — it must contain silica, the grains must be rounded and between 0.1 and 0.5 mm in diameter, and the sand can't be too humid.

"It's a very rare thing for sand to make this singing noise," she said. There are other singing sands in P.E.I., she noted on a stretch of beaches along the south shore of eastern Kings.

Jay, along with Frances Braceland and Keila Miller, go for a walk along the singing sands at Basin Head as cameraman Randy McAndrew gets some footage. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

About the Author

Nancy Russell

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water rowing, travelling to Kenya or walking her dog. Nancy.Russell@cbc.ca