Last year, the residents of San Francisco began to notice a strange noise coming from the city’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge. After they renovated the west sidewalk and installed new aerodynamic railings for wind safety, the 83-year-old bridge began to make a mysterious “hmmmmm”.
Commuters have posted recordings of the sound online, check one out here. As you can tell, the people who shot the video are pretty blown away but just how loud it can get. And at 2:10, they include a clip of the same hum from miles away!
What’s going on?
As it turns out, the fancy new railings are the culprit! At a specific angle, the high winds passing through them creates a loud humming sound, and the bridge acts as a giant harmonica.
In the project’s testing phases, the engineers said they knew about the hum in advance. However, perhaps they did not fully take into account how loud the noise would be. The sound can be heard all throughout the city—and on windy days even farther. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the noise can be heard as far as 16 km (10 miles) away.
That’s pretty loud!
Sounds of the city
Paolo Cosulich-Schwartz, the public affairs manager for the Golden Gate Bridge, says he’s heard “mixed feedback” from residents about the bridge’s noise.
"Understandably, those that live close to the bridge and can hear the sound from their homes have tended to find it distressing," he said. "But some people have also told us they enjoy the sound. They'd like it to stay.”
Other people have said that it sounds like an orchestra warming up, or even like a whale’s song. For a city on the ocean that gets a lot of wind, having a 'Golden Gate Kazoo' downtown must get pretty annoying after a while. Despite its handful of fans, engineers are now busy trying to figure out how to silence the singing bridge permanently.
Can it be fixed?
According to Cosulich-Schwartz and the Golden Gate engineering team, a solution is on the way! But … we’re not sure when. The team has managed re-create the humming effect in a controlled environment and they are currently testing out methods to fix the issue, but nothing has been officially announced yet.
The team is hoping to have a solution by this summer. Until then, we’ll keep our eyes peeled for updates and keep our ears plugged!