Quicksand Won’t Kill You, But It Is Pretty Tough

On this episode of “Things I Learned Today,” I’m talking about the awesome and mysterious quicksand. Turns out, quicksand won’t kill you, but it’s still pretty damn tough.

Quicksand is composed of four main elements: salt, water, sand, and clay. It’s the water part that makes it quicksand, which are usually found near beaches and rivers. Now it’s still true that the more you struggle, the deeper you sink… that’s the part Hollywood got right.

But a reassessment of what Quicksand actually is in mid 2005 shows us quite clearly that the buoyancy of stuff means you extremely unlikely to die in quicksand. In fact, the actual occurrences of quicksand rarely form in excess of a few feet in-depth. Unless you’re under three feet tall, you’re usually fine.

University of Amsterdam Physicist Daniel Bonn claims that the soupy mixture has limits, and if you tread on quicksand, or liquefy the substance by moving, it goes from something that is almost completely solid, to something that is almost completely liquid. A simply buoyancy calculation, the Archimedes force, shows immediately that you cannot drown completely.

So, if you get trapped in quicksand, you won’t die. What a relief.

BUT, we also see people using ropes and vines to pull people out of quicksand in the movies (usually right as their heads go under, a phenomenon we just said isn’t going to happen). Will that work?

Well, they also calculated the force necessary to get your foot out of quicksand and it equals about 100,000 Newtons…. for all of you who are like “what the hell is a newton” well, it’s about the force needed to life a medium-sized car.

That’s because the quicksand packs densely around your foot, forming a sort of trap that you can’t simply life your foot out of.

So the scientists say that the easy way to get yourself out of the mess, provided you have some spare water on you, is to just add it to the sand. Effectively, make the sand more watery… and wiggle your foot while you do it. If you panic, you’ll likely sink in a little further and let the sand get a better hold, so do it methodically around whatever part of you is stuck, and you’ll be fine.

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Charlie Pryor

Charlie is a media producer, writer, and a traveler. He grew up in Michigan, all of his life and attended Grand Valley State University for a B.S. in Film and Video Production. He's married to a wonderful woman named Hang, and simply hopes to one day turn himself into a man that many will remember long after he's gone.

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2 Responses

  1. Starr Mayes says:

    Very informative info, thanks Charlie, keep learning….. Aunt Starr :)))

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