Welcome to the ABA! Bell Talk Forums Large Bells Oh say, can you hear? And if so how far away?

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    • #10596
      Hillary Murtha
      Participant

      Hi,

      I’m working on my dissertation on 19th century bells – wondered if anyone knows just how far the sound of a big bell travels based on its weight, housing, ringing apparatus, etc. Rough parameters would be great…
      I hear such varied things. One steel bell co boasted in its 1863 catalog that their big bells (500 lbs and up) could be heard 8 miles away, but then I’m told that steel bells rang further than bronze bells – also that it made a difference if the bell was hand-tolled or mechanically rung…

      Many thanks in advance
      Hillary Murtha

    • #13130
      Frank
      Participant

      Neil Goeppinger would be the best person I know of to answer that question. He is a member here and may see your question or you can write him from the member list.
      Frank

    • #13131
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Response #1

      The sound of a properly mounted bell will travel between 3/4 of a mile and 7 miles. Sound travels line-of-sight. Tall trees, buildings etc. will reflect the sound. A strong wind will carry the sound even farther than seven miles, as sound travels through the moving air, but even less than 3/4 mile up wind. Streets, rivers, etc. will funnell the sound travel.

      Admin

      This inquiry was originally sent to the ABA’s Internet Coordinator. The responses are are opinions of individuals based on their personal research and knowledge.

    • #13132
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Response #2

      Dear Hillary, As you already noted, many things limit how far a bell can be
      heard. First, the distance does not change very much once the bell is over
      about 30″ in diameter. The note is lower as the bell gets bigger, but the
      distance heard doesn’t change much.

      The density of the air makes quite a difference, as well as if there are
      things between the bell and the listener. For instance, my bell collection
      is in my yard, which is in a wooded area. In the summer, the trees are
      heavily covered with leaves and my brother who lives 4 miles away cannot
      hear my bells. When the leaves are gone, he can hear them. There also is a
      large hill between us, which limits the sound travel.

      Bells can be heard farther over water or any other flat surface. A vary
      large bronze fire bell in an open tower in New York City was reported to be
      heard by incoming ships 20 miles out at sea. This is in one of my bell
      books or catalogues.

      Another factor is the density of the air. Cold air (winter) carries sound
      further than less dense air (summer). Even in the summer, foggy conditions
      (more dense air) will cause a bell to be heard further.

      So, I guess a foggy cold day on water would give about the furthest
      distance. That was good for all those buoy bells which warned ships of
      rocks and shoals in fog.

      Admin

      This inquiry was originally sent to the ABA’s Internet Coordinator. The responses are are opinions of individuals based on their personal research and knowledge.

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