Chile’s singing sculpture in the middle of the desert

The Arpa Eólica picks up constant westerly winds to create a noise somewhere between digital music and the sound of a U.F.O. landing. 

From modern sculptures to ancient rock art, Chile’s northern deserts are full of mysterious objects, artefacts and relics.

Forty four miles (70 km) on the road that runs from the historic beach city of La Serena to the desert oasis of the Elqui Valley, on a lookout above the Puclaro Reservoir, you’ll find one of the strangest.

Finished in 1999, the dam is a huge expanse of water, ringed by desert mountains and buffeted by constant winds that blow from the Pacific Ocean.

Those winds make Puclaro Reservoir one of the country’s premier destinations for kitesurfing and other wind sports, and its fresh water irrigates some 50,000 acres (20,000 ha) of crops, most of them the vineyards that produce the area’s famed pisco – a wine brandy and the national liquor of Chile.

Puclaro Reservoir has another claim to fame, however.

No matter when you visit, a strange, almost digital noise will wash over you. It’s so strange that many visitors have thought it was the sound of a U.F.O. landing on Earth – especially after visiting one of the valley’s observatories or observing the preternaturally clear skies that makes this region famous among astronomers.

What you hear at this lookout is those strong westerly winds washing through an imposing red sculpture of twisted metal.

It’s called the Arpa Eólica (“Wind Harp”) and was created in 2005 by Chilean artist Mario Arenas Navarrete.

The wind vibrates eight metal cords on the “harp,” which resonate in the entire body of the sculpture and create an incredible concert of metallic sounds that can be heard all over the lookout.

To listen to the music of the Arpa Eólica, and see a photograph, click here.