How to get out of Quicksand?

quicksand

When you are hiking, getting trapped and sinking in quicksand could be a problem you may face. However, it is not as dangerous as we see in the movies. This article will let you know all about quicksand and how to get out of it.

What is Quicksand?

Quicksand is generally misunderstood as it’s not always sand, but it’s any mass of clay, sand or mud particles wherein water is trapped. The mixture of water and sand turns into thick liquid mud, which collapses under moving weight. When it re-solidifies, it traps whatever is in its depths.

At first glance, quicksand may appear solid. However, whenever anyone steps on it he will quickly discover that the ground is liquefied under his feet.

Where is Quicksand found?

It is a myth created by movies that quicksand is often found in deserts.The formation of quicksand actually needs water to be present in the terrain.  Water flowing underground shakes the landform and is responsible for the creation of quicksand.

Thus quicksand can generally be found in areas where grainy soil is located such as near marshes, riverbanks, beaches, lakeshores and underground springs.

How dangerous is Quicksand

In old actions movies, it’s usually shown that quicksand is the number-one hazard faced by adventure-seeking people. However, in reality, news about quicksand tragedies won’t turn up much. So the question arises, is quicksand as dangerous as advertised?

No. This is because the sand particles in quicksand behave as a liquid. However, it could be messy and annoying when you get trapped in quicksand, but it’s near impossible to die in it as depicted in the movies.

You don’t die in quicksand because it is denser than the human body. One could get stuck in it, but the body is not entirely absorbed to the bottom. Instead, it floats on the surface. The legs may sink as they are denser, but since the torso is buoyant due to the lungs, it stays out of the trouble.

When can you die in Quicksand?

It is a fact that you don’t sink entirely in quicksand. Instead, you float in it. The maximum level of submersion in quicksand is waist-deep. However, it is still a possibility to die in quicksand due to the reasons below.Drowning

It occurs when supplementary water comes accidentally over quicksand. It could be due to the heavy rain, splashing water from underneath, massive tide or water falling over it.

Suffocation

Suffocation in quicksand happens when you get completely submerged in it. Though typically, you sink up till your waist, but due to failed or wrong self-rescue techniques, you may find yourself suffocating in it.

Hypothermia

You can’t keep your body temperature constant forever when half of your body gets stuck in quicksand. Hypothermia usually happens in wet quicksand or at night if the quicksand is located in the desert area.

Crush Syndrome

The continued pressure on the muscles (esp your legs) weakens the circulatory system of your body. The compression also sometimes damages nerves and releases a compound that could damage your kidney.

Dehydration

If you don’t get water to drink when you get trapped in quicksand you may die of dehydration.

Predators

Predators like vultures and alligators could be a reason that you could die if you get stuck in quicksand.

How to identify Quicksand

The best way not to get stuck into quicksand is to identify and avoid it. Various ways in which you can identify quicksand in the terrain are:

Keep an eye on the terrain

If the water is bubbling-up from the ground, it may be a possibility that you have landed upon quicksand. Landscape with a rippled look also indicates quicksand.

Know danger zones

Be cautious around wet areas, especially near lakes, swamps, tidal flats, riverbanks, glaciers, marshes and underground springs. Also, be careful when the terrain gets hit by an extensive rainstorm.

Test before you step

With a walking stick or trekking poles, tap the ground and, if it sinks in, map another course.

Steps to get out of Shallow Quicksand

If you are unable to identify quicksand,  then you may get stuck in it. Here are the steps to get out of quicksand when it is shallow or when you have submerged up-till your legs.

Drop everything

If you are carrying something or wearing a backpack, then drop it deliberately and immediately. Since the human body is less dense than quicksand you cannot sink in it entirely unless you move too much due to panic and struggle.

If it is possible to remove your shoes, do so, especially if they are flat like boots. Shoes with inflexible and flat soles create a suction phenomena when you try to get out of quicksand. In the quicksand prone terrain, it’s best to go barefoot or wear shoes that can be pulled out easily when you get trapped in it.

Move horizontally

If your feet are getting stuck, take a few steps backwards before quicksand gets hold of it. It usually takes 60 seconds for the legs to get submerged into quicksand; hence try to move the feet as soon as possible.

By any chance, if your feet do get stuck, do not take significant clumsy steps as this may loosen one foot, but push another foot further down, which may deteriorate the situation.

Lay Back

If your feet are sinking into quicksand fast, then sit down and lean back. Doing this not only removes the extra pressure from the legs but also allows you to float. When you feel that your feet are getting free, immediately roll your body to one side and free the quicksand grip. This is the safest way to get out of quicksand which is shallow.

Take your time

Do not be anxious and take your time. Keep your movement slow as agitated movements may lodge you deeper. Also, the vibrations caused due to tense movements can turn the firm ground into quicksand.

Quicksand is very unpredictable to the moves you make; hence you need to stay patient. It can take hours to get out of it.

How to get out of Deep Quicksand

Getting out of quicksand which is deep, could be trickier, but it only needs calmness, patience and a few extra steps. Let’s see how to get out of it:

Relax

Quicksand is usually not deeper but if you get trapped in an intense spot, then do not panic as the maximum you can sink is up-till your waist. However, if you panic more, you will fall further, and if you relax, your body’s buoyancy helps you to float.

Deep breathing is a good practice to stay relaxed and keep you calm, and it also helps make your body more buoyant. Try to keep your lungs filled with air because you won’t submerge deeper into quicksand if they are full of air.   

Get backwards and swim

If you get stuck deep in quicksand, bend backwards. This will help you spread the weight to the larger part of the body and prevent you from sinking more. Now, try to float on top of the quicksand while removing the legs from it slowly.

Once your legs set free, try to move your hands in a sweeping motion in the backward direction. This trick will let you propel towards the edge of the quicksand smoothly and slowly. When you reach the hard ground, you can roll your body over it.

Use a stick

It’s beneficial to carry a stick when you are navigating in quicksand terrain. When you get trapped in quicksand lay the stick horizontally on the surface of it and lay your body over the stick.

After a moment, you will maintain a balance, and you will stop sinking. Now try to move the stick under your hips so that you can free your legs slowly.

After setting your legs free, stay flat on your back with the stick beneath as a guide. Move your body sideways with the help of the stick to the firm ground.

Take regular breaks

Getting out of quicksand is very exhausting. Hence you need to conserve your energy. Therefore you should always stay calm and do slow movements.

What not to do when you stuck in quicksand?

Besides the ‘Do’s discussed above, there are a few ‘Don’ts’ which needs to be followed when you get stuck and want to get out of quicksand

Do not panic

Do not panic, as it limits your ability to think and react slowly. Practice deep breathing as it helps you remain calm in adverse situations.

Apply less force

Do not ask your hiking friends to pull you out of quicksand. Also, do not apply too much power when getting out. Instead, with steady and slow movements, you will surely free yourself eventually.

Front float

Don’t do a front floating on your stomach as it increases the probability of getting your head trapped in quicksand.

Final Notes 

We hope you have received relevant information concerning quicksand and how to get out of it. It will help you in several ways when you are navigating the outdoors or when on a hike.