The Whistling Island of La Gomera

Joshua Foer is a guest blogger on Boing Boing. Joshua is a freelance science journalist and the co-founder of the Atlas Obscura: A Compendium of the World's Wonders, Curiosities, and Esoterica, with Dylan Thuras.


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To follow up on Dylan's post about Ball's Pyramid, we've got a whole category of "Anomalous Islands" in the Atlas Obscura that is waiting to be filled out. One of my favorites is La Gomera, a small island in the Canaries, where people communicate with each other from miles apart using one of the most unusual languages in the world:

Known as Silbo, the whistling language of Gomera Island has a vocabulary of over 4,000 words, and is used by "Silbadors" to send messages across the island's high peaks and deep valleys.

Though Silbo was on the verge of extinction in the 1990s, the Gomerans have made a concerted effort to revive their language by adding it to the public school curriculum. Today 3,000 schoolchildren are in the process of learning it.

Here's a sampling of the language: