The surprisingly soothe sounds of San Francisco's fog horns and surf (1987)

This 1987 field recording of the San Francisco Bay's surf meshed with the sound of four separate foghorns surprised me. I found it to be more calming than alarming.


In the late '80s, my dad recorded the foghorns of San Francisco on tape for my mother. Many of the foghorns in San Francisco Bay can never be heard again as they have been replaced by more advanced technology…

Here is what my dad has to say:

This recording was made late in the evening on the foggy night of August 29th, 1987 from Lands End near Lincoln Park in San Francisco, using fairly inexpensive stereo equipment. The coordinates are approximately N 37 degrees 47' 14"; W 122 degrees 29' 40.5". Years later I converted the recording to digital for posterity. There are four separate fog horns audible, each with specific characteristics such as direction, intervals and frequencies; two are single, two are double. I believe two of these are located on the nearby Golden Gate Bridge itself and another may be at Point Bonita on the Marin Headlands, 2.5 miles west of the bridge. Also audible is the surf below the cliffs of Lands End. At about 1:08:00
into the recording a small plane can be heard flying overhead. For more information about these and other fog horns in San Francisco Bay, visit:

If you live in San Francisco, here's something to try next time there's fog, from the Golden Gate Bridge website:

When it's foggy you can hear the sound from the south tower instantly by telephone, 415-202-3809. Then, wait about 2 seconds to hear the sound waves reach your ears through the air, traveling a little faster than a jet airliner. The south tower foghorn sounds a deep, loud note for 2 seconds, then it repeats in 18 seconds. Another foghorn at midspan between the towers sounds a pair of high-pitched notes.

(Austin Kleon)

photo by David Yu/Flickr