The Apostle Islands red sandstone caves ripe for me to explore by kayak their astonishing beauty made richer by curious music

On the northwestern tip of Wisconsin, where a peninsula of land like a unmanageable hair swirl juts into Lake Superior, twenty-two islands form an archipelago. Named the “Apostle Islands” by someone approximating their number, these bits of land are smothered in white pine and balsam fir, though below is ancient rock from the Precambrian period made up nearly entirely of red sandstone.

What happens to sandstone after centuries of wave action, freezing, and thawing? They’re carved and sculpted into caves of delicate arches, vaulted chambers, and honeycombed passageways that can only be entered from the water.

When conditions are calm, it’s safe to explore these remarkable phenomena that seem lit from below. It’s a site one never forgets – and yet, the sound of gentle waves plinking and plonking against the stone has its own mesmerizing quality.


  1. Joan Potter

    Glad I closed my eyes, as I could let my imagination run. I keep diving below the water, fascinated by the hidden passages, bridges, walls. All the unseen that create the seen and heard. Awesome metaphor.

    • alison young

      It is one of the most wondrous places I know and yet I was surprised that my companions were also taken by its sound. A total package!

  2. Stuart Tarbuck

    Sounds like an interesting environment for a little informal music-making, too. (Yes- I was vaguely thinking of Paul Horn’s Taj Mahal album of decades ago) Or would that be spoiling things? The natural music is indeed pretty interesting all by itself.

    BTW, what are you using for audio recording & editing? (Having been a rec. engineer, I have to ask!)

    • alison young

      Indeed! I am using my iPhone with Shure MV88. Editing was done on Ferrite. For this gig, I used the iPhone mic (except my voice) Absolutely I sang in the caves…and made a little percussion myself with my paddle. Tomorrow, I’ll play a bit on air along with Mendelssohn’s sea cave musical adventure.

      btw, a wee bit awkward to capture nat sound in 15 feet of very cold water, so I am pretty chuffed 🙂

  3. Micki Simms

    Dear A.,

    That was the most interesting and well-choreographed audio file to accompany your journey. I loved the tuneful organ pipes and percussive sounds. Amazing. I was in the Blue Grotto off Napoli years ago and it was rather like going thru those caves- minus
    the wonderful musical sounds to accompany us. Just the visual beauty. This is a keeper. Thanks so much for your time and talents here displayed.

    xoxo, M

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