Help, I’m Sinking in Quicksand!

Have you ever had one of those childhood fears that you carried with you to adulthood, only to find out later that it was never true? I’ve been afraid of quicksand my whole life. Ever since I saw some scary movie as a child, I’ve thought quicksand would be the most horrific death that anyone could endure. Only this week when I read my Science Illustrated magazine did I learn the truth about quicksand. For all those that may also be carrying this fear, this article is dedicated to you.

According to Science Illustrated, “Quicksand is essentially sand that has become oversaturated with water, losing the friction between grains that normally allows it to support weight. So when an object applies pressure to the surface of quicksand, the particles become unstable and flow downward, causing the object to sink.”

Yes, this definition does still sound a bit creepy and spine-chilling; however, the magazine article goes on to explain that in 2005, the University of Amsterdam ran several tests with quicksand. They concluded that, “…a person will sink into it but only about halfway up their body.” Even though there is a certain degree of downward pull, it is not enough to engulf a person. It is only enough to trap a person at most. The density of quicksand, at 2 grams per cubic centimetre, is twice the density of a human (1 gram per cubic centimetre), so you may be stuck, but you won’t be sucked down to die! confirms what the article in Science Illustrated concluded. According to that website, “If you believed what you saw in movies, you might think that quicksand is a living creature that can suck you down into a bottomless pit, never to be heard from again. But no, the actual properties of quicksand are not quite those portrayed in the movies.”

If you should find yourself stuck in quicksand, the first rule is, don’t panic. Unless you fall in face first, you have almost no chance of getting sucked in to drown, as a matter of fact, as in water, people are naturally buoyant in quicksand. Yes, you can float on top of it!

The authors of The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook suggest that you move as slowly as possible to reduce viscosity. Also, spread your arms and legs far apart to increase your surface area, which again, should allow you to float. Just move very, very slowly and keep your cool and your patience. You’ll eventually be able to very slowly wiggle your way out. Just remember, when in quick sand, use slow movement. You may eventually have to roll or swim to solid ground. But as long as you move slowly, you’ll be fine! There is almost no threat of death. Also, keep in mind, most quicksand pockets that form are only a few feet deep.

Now that I’m armed with all this new information, I can laugh and appreciate the cheesy quicksand entertainment in movies and videos, instead of being scared out of my wits. Enjoy!