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"I don't know why I write science fiction. The voices in my head told me to!"
- Charles Stross

Whispering Gallery  
  A means of communication in specifically shaped spaces.  

Then came again that rolling noise like thunder which had awakened me out of torpor. "I begin to understand," I said to myself after some little time devoted to reflection; "it is not through the solid mass that the sound reaches my ears. The walls of my cavernous retreat are of solid granite, and the most fearful explosion would not make uproar enough to penetrate them. The place I was in must possess some peculiar acoustic properties of its own." Again I listened; and this time-yes, this time-I heard my name distinctly pronounced; cast as it were into space. It was my uncle the Professor who was speaking. He was in conversation with the guide, and the word which had so often reached my ears, forlorad, was a Danish expression. Then I understood it all. In order to make myself heard, I too must speak as it were along the side of the gallery, which would carry the sound of my voice just as the wire carries the electric fluid from point to point. But there was no time to lose. If my companions were only to remove a few feet from where they stood, the acoustic effect would be over, my Whispering Gallery destroyed. I again therefore crawled towards the wall and said as clearly and distinctly as I could- "Uncle Hardwigg." I then awaited a reply. Sound does not possess the property of travelling with such extreme rapidity. Besides, the density of the air at that depth from light and motion, was very far from adding to the rapidity of the circulation. Several seconds elapsed, which to my excited imagination, appeared ages; and these words reached my eager ears, and moved my wildly beating heart- "Harry, my boy, is that you?"
A short delay between question and answer. "Yes-yes."
"Where are you?"
"Lost!"
"And your lamp?"
"Out."
"But the guiding stream?"
"Is lost!"
"Keep your courage, Harry. We will do our best."
"One moment, my uncle," I cried; "I have no longer strength to answer your questions. But-for heaven's sake-do you-continue-to speak-to me!" Absolute silence I felt, would be annihilation.
...
This apparently astounding acoustic mystery is easily explainable by simple natural laws; it arose from the peculiar formation of the gallery and from the conductibility of the rock. There are many instances of this singular propagation of sound which are not perceptible in its less mediate positions. In the interior galley of St. Paul's, and amid the curious caverns in Sicily, these phenomena are observable. The most marvellous of them all is known as the Ear of Dionysius.
From Journey to the Center of the Earth, by Jules Verne.
Published by Pierre-Jules Hetzel in 1864
Additional resources -

According to Internet sources, the Whispering-Gallery phenomenon was first explained by Lord Raleigh in 1878, in St. Paul's Cathedral. I'm sure the phenomenon was known prior to that time, but I can't find any references.

This same idea is used to great effect by Alfred Bester in his excellent The Stars My Destination; the Gouffre Martel prison was built deep underground to isolate prisoners, but the legendary 'Whisper Line' sometimes connects widely dispersed cells so convicts can converse with each other.

My apologies to Connor Lawrence, who contributed this item; I kept trying to find earlier references. (BTW, Connor, I can't find your email.)

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Journey to the Center of the Earth
  More Ideas and Technology by Jules Verne
  Tech news articles related to Journey to the Center of the Earth
  Tech news articles related to works by Jules Verne

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