Fleurieu Sound Map: Rapid Bay

A view from the northern cave in Rapid Bay.

A few days ago I drove down to Rapid Bay with L to make some recordings for the Fleurieu Sound Map project.   This was my first visit to Rapid Bay in many years, I think it may have been the first time I’d been there in about 15 years(!) which is peculiar given that Rapid Bay is only about 20km from my hometown, Normanville.  My long absence can be attributed to a couple of reasons: #1 because up until very recently I hadn’t driven a car for five years this had restricted my Fleurieu visits to places where buses, my legs and other people’s cars were willing to go.  #2 going further back, Rapid Bay never stood out as a choice location in my teens/early 20’s whereas places like Second Valley (5km north) were the places where stuff like parties and gatherings happened. The only thing I remember Rapid Bay had going for it was a large cave to the north of the bay – ideal for fires and general misbehaviour.

Although it has a small school, Rapid Bay isn’t really a town – there’s only a handful of colonial era bluestone houses, shacks and a quarry built into the side of the hill on the southern edge of the bay.  There was once a general store but it’s since closed.  A majority of the houses in the town were built for workers who were employed at the quarry which used to be owned by BHP.  Rapid Bay is a significant place in the colonial history of South Australia as it was the first place that Colonel William Light made landfall in 1836, and was (very briefly) considered as a location for the State’s capital.  Rapid Bay’s attractions are its (very) simple beachside camping ground and the wreck of the HMAS Hobart that was scuttled off the coast in 2002.  It’s an attractive destination for scuba divers and an enormous jetty was built a few years ago to facilitate diving tours to the wreckage.  Rapid Bay also has a significant population of the protected Leafy Sea Dragon as well.  It’s remarkable how little of Rapid Bay has changed since my last visit, I  read recently that the District Council of Yankalilla had re-zoned this area so that the historic character of the area can be retained and development is kept to a minimum.

Rapid Bay, looking north with the cave at the base of Constitution Hill.

On the day we arrived time was a bit tight so we could only seek out the cave, have some lunch and a quick look around.  It was bright and sunny day in the mid twenties with a light breeze and the bay looked beautiful.  The water was still warm from a recent heatwave and the area was relatively empty with the exception of a few campervans parked in the camping ground and a couple fishing on the beach.

Setting up to record in the cave.

The cave has some interesting acoustic properties.  At the entrance is a wide chamber which then splits into two recesses – one on the left goes back a fair way, whilst the other goes back only a few metres.  I made three recordings at different points, all facing the ocean.

Recording at the entrance of the cave.

The unique acoustic phenomena of the cave extends to the varied propagation of waves, reverberation and a strange pooling of frequencies at the rear of the cave.  My grasp of psychoacoustics isn’t great, but there were occasionally some unexpected things happening…some heterodyning perhaps?  I’d love to record in there with a more comprehensive recording set-up to capture some of the more evasive sounds of this space.

You’ll be able to listen to these cave recordings once the Fleurieu Sound Map site goes live later this month.

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