Kayaking 2,500km to capture the sounds of the River Murray

  Last updated February 14, 2020 at 3:51 pm


Researchers are travelling the entire length of the River Murray to bring the river’s health back into the spotlight.

river murray_the murray_australian rivers_kayak

Researchers will travel the entire length of the river to capture the sounds of the river. Credit: Jason Macqueen

Why This Matters: The river is still under pressure – even with all the efforts to help it.

Travelling the entire length of the Murray River sounds like a nice holiday away, but for a team of researchers it’s less about relaxing and more about re-framing the discussion about the waterway’s health.

Scientists and audio specialists, led by researchers at The Australian National University have teamed up to travel the entire length of the river by kayak, starting in Kosciuszko National Park in southeast NSW and ending in South Australia.

They are capturing the river’s sights and sounds as well as turning important data about the river into audio.

Giving the Murray a voice

Honours student Xavier Anderson is one of those taking part in the expedition – now entering its final stages.

“It is rare to see a river all the way from source to sea. We’ve been through so many landscapes and have seen how the river connects to them all,”  he says.

Also: Murray River habitat restoration increases native fish populations

“What’s made it even more remarkable is the extreme conditions we’ve faced this summer as we’ve made our way down the river.

“We’ve been through dust storms, scorching temperatures, hiked through knee-deep snow, paddled in smoke and have battled against strong winds approaching the South Australian border.”

Meredith Hope from ANU says they hope to “give the Murray a voice”.

“The Murray-Darling system is the life-blood for millions of Australians,” she says.

“It provides water to drink, grow food, provide transport and of course supports thousands of species in diverse eco-systems.”

The trip began at the Kosciuszko National Park. Credit: Jason Macqueen

“But the health of the Murray River remains under pressure despite efforts to improve it.”

“So to address this, our research team have been recording the river as they travel from source to sea over two-and-half months. And the sounds and sights we have captured are a powerful expression of the river’s health.

“It’s crucial that we communicate the huge importance of this system, celebrate its majestic wonder and continue efforts to preserve it.”

Creating an ‘aural fingerprint’

The researchers will also create a soundscape of the river by translating publicly available data for sites right down the Murray – like flow rate, water temperature, salinity and depth – into sound for the first time.

They will also combine this “aural fingerprint” with the sounds and sights collected on the 2,500-kilometre kayaking expedition.

The intention is this will eventually form part of an interactive museum exhibition.

Also: Murray microbes test river health

“This travelling exhibit will bring the river to the public,” Hope says.

“We really want to showcase the river’s central role in regional Australia, and help people all over Australia connect with this extraordinary waterway.”

It’s a vital mission.

“There is a risk that the Australian public may not support further investment in river health due to a lack of trust in government process and frustration at the cost involved,” Hope says.

“‘Out of the box’ communication solutions are needed to cut through this negative political space.”

You can follow their progress online via Instagram, or the group’s blog.

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