Built between 1899 and 1903, the ‘Whispering Wall’ was once the tallest dam in Australia, standing at 36 metres. The concrete arch is built in such a way that it causes a parabola effect, allowing sound to travel across the face of the damn. After travelling the 144 metres across, sound, even whispers, can still be heard perfectly. It is this phenomenon which means that even after 112 years it continues to attract tourists and locals alike.
When it was originally commissioned it cost around £170,000 to build. That works out to be around $20 million AUD in modern terms. It was one of the first concrete dams to be built, and was considered an engineering revolution in its time. Even after being used for so long it remains in good condition. The water that fills the reservoir behind the dam comes from Yettie Creek, and damming the flow took 400 men to complete. The Barossa reservoir itself holds 4,510 megalitres, and is used to supply the local areas of Gawler, Elizabeth, Salisbury, Parafield and Para Hills West.
So why don’t we have a look?
You can see from the picture above just how big the dam is, sort of, it’s a tad blurry, I know. You might be able to make out Lars walking across the dam though. 140 metres is a long distance for sound to travel when you think about it. This next picture might help to put it into perspective.
So here you can see the actual size of the dam. And the tiny people on the other side. The thing that makes this place so attractive to tourists, and children in particular, is that the acoustic properties of the concave concrete wall mean you can hear each other perfectly from one side to the other; even if you speak in whispers.
It sounds impossible, but I’ve tried it. It works. It’s certainly weird, but it’s also interesting, and it’s the reason that this place earned the nickname the Whispering Wall. I’m told the reason for the parabola effect has something to do with the size of the dam and the angle of the arch, combined with how quiet the location is. 1+1+1=10 sort of thing. I’d definitely recommend giving it a try though. Even if you don’t care about whispering across 140 metres, there are still a bunch of views like this one of the water which fills the Barossa reservoir:
It’s a quiet, calm place. There are a whole bunch of facilities on site too, including actual clean public toilets (and not drop dunnys, makes a change Australia!), picnic benches, parking and even shade so that you don’t burn during the summer. Although its full of water, I’d also recommend checking out the fire safety level before you go there, it’d be a shame to turn up only to find it closed due to the extreme heat.
It makes for a great place for a quiet day trip, or if you’re trying to find something to do with overseas visitors (Aussies) or if you’re an overseas visitor yourself, you should definitely check it out. It’s not very often you’ll come across something like this, and as far as I’m aware it’s pretty unique in its acoustic abilities. Just remember, better be nice even if people you dislike are the other side, they’ll definitely hear you! 🙂