Sound Mirrors, Dungeness, England

gkat_067.pdf50° 57′ 22″ N, 0° 57′ 14″ E


Echoes from the Sky

Dungeness is a peculiar bit of British landscape: it looks like there’s almost nothing there. It’s a vast area of shingle, swept by salty sea winds, and yet it has a very dry microclimate. It was designated as a National Nature Reserve and is full of wildlife, including the largest medicinal leeches in Britain.

But this empty landscape also has a number of non-living attractions: there are two nuclear power stations, two lighthouses, a lifeboat station, and a military firing range. But the most fascinating of all are three concrete acoustic mirrors built in the 1920s and 1930s as a simple early-warning system against an airborne attack from across the English Channel.

This desolate place was chosen as the site for the mirrors because there was little noise, and the seaward-facing mirrors could listen for an attack without interference. Sound mirrors were built in other places around the UK, but the three mirrors at Dungeness are well preserved and show three different mirror forms: a pair of dishes and a 60-meter-long curved wall.

The mirrors were built as a response to the bombing of Britain during the First World War, when Germany had used Zeppelin air ships and conventional aircraft ...

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