Facts About Quicksand
Quicksand shows up in movies, where the hero gets pulled out of a quicksand pit moments before his inevitable demise, but how much do you know about quicksand? How common is it? Where can quicksand be found? How is it created? Is it common? How many people die from quicksand? And most importantly, how do you escape from quicksand? Read on and become a quicksand expert (ok, not quite an “expert”…).
What is Quicksand, Anyway?
Quicksand refers to an area where fine sand, silt, or clay floats on water. These sand, clay, and silt particles are interspersed with the water molecules, creating a weak bond that holds it all together.
When a person or animal steps on it, of course, the weak bonds break, and the floating semi-liquid structure collapses. The unlucky guy or gal falls in.
Death can happen like this:
The water under the top layer of sediment is deep so the victim goes deep and drowns pretty quickly.
The stickiness of the water with its sand and clay particles makes the person or animal panic. They exert all their energy and end up drowning. (Slow death due to fatigue)
They inhale the sediment-containing water, and the respiratory system gets blocked as a result.
If you don’t get out quickly, you get cold. Your body temperature drops. When night comes or the temp gets colder, you could get hypothermia and die.
If you get stuck in quicksand near the sea (where quicksand is often located) and the tide comes in and covers you, you can drown.
There are 3 kinds of quicksand – 2 wet ones and a dry one:
Normally, sand and clay don’t float on water. However, over a spring or an area where water comes up from underneath the ground, the hydrostatic pressure of the water can create a situation where the solid particles form a weak bond and float, creating quicksand.
In still water in a forest, fine sediment particles float on the water. Then gradually, leaves and other detritus fall and decay. It mixes with the fine particles and creates a floating gel-like layer of sand/silt/clay/organic material. Hence, quicksand.
The third kind is called “dry quicksand” and doesn’t involve water. Instead, air gets blown between the sand particles which makes the sand lose density. Then when you step on it, you sink into it. Some people doubt that this kind exists in nature, but there are stories of whole caravans disappearing into dry quicksand. And it is theoretically possible if the sand gets blown into the air and falls down again.
Where Can Quicksand be Found?
Usually, quicksand is found near rivers or in marshy land that’s next to bodies of water (think lakes and rivers). It can also be wherever there’s loose soil along with shallow underground water.
Basically, it can form anywhere where there’s sand or loose soil along with water, as well as an absence of the things that break the weak bonds necessary to form the gel-like top layer. This means there can’t be any waves, currents, etc.
Here’s a video of some kids who found a pit of quicksand:
Here are a couple of common places to find quicksand:
- There are several areas around Spokane, Washington
- There are plenty of places in Brazil with quicksand
Unfortunately, no one keeps a record or a map of all the places with quicksand in the world. There are so many, and they’re usually small in area, so I can’t tell you a specific place to go find yourself some quicksand.
Here’s What You Should Know
Some quicksand pits are deep, but most are not. For the majority of quicksand pits, they’re no more than 4-5 feet deep. So, you’re not going to sink down into the abyss….
They don’t suck you under. When you apply pressure, the semi-liquid sand/silt/clay mixture breaks its bonds and liquefies. So, it’s thick and very hard to move in, but it doesn’t suck you down. It’s your movements that make you sink. When you move, you create a vacuum pressure because the material is so thick and slushy. That makes it even harder for you to move around.
Quicksand has a higher density than you, so you will float if you can get yourself flat across the surface of it. Quicksand has a density of about 2 grams per milliliter. Human density is only about 1 gram per milliliter.
How Many People Die from Quicksand?
I searched and searched for an answer to this question and couldn’t find one complete answer. A lot of people do die from quicksand because when you Google it, there are pages and pages of news articles about kids and adults who died from getting stuck in quicksand. There are especially a lot of those sad stories in the UK media outlets.
Sorry, but I just couldn’t find a trusted statistic anywhere about how many people die every year worldwide from quicksand. ☹ If you can find one, let me know!
How to Get Out of Quicksand
To get yourself out of quicksand, the first thing to do is not to panic. Then, slowly wriggle your legs in a circular motion to make space around your legs where water can flow in and loosen the sediment mixture.
Once you have a little space to move your legs, slowly and progressively try to get yourself to where you can lie flat across the top of the quicksand. Here’s a video of Bear Grylls demonstrating how to get out of quicksand:
Now, go quiz your friends and see if they know as much about quicksand as you do, you quicksand expert! 😊