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How to Escape Quicksand

Updated on March 18, 2014

Quicksand exists wherever underground streams or rivers have flowed upward, turning sandy soil into a liquefied mush. Why is it so tough to move around in quicksand? Because sand’s tendency is to stick with other sand and it’s hard to break the vacuum – with water it’s easier since molecules of water break easily when you tug against them.

So how do you extricate yourself from such a trap?

Enter sandman!
Enter sandman! | Source

1. Do not panic.

Of course your first instinct would be to panic, and to kick and thrash around in the sticky sand. Don’t – with each kick you are digging a hole for your body to descend.

The smart thing to do would to stop moving entirely, which will let your body float to the surface. The density of a human body is less than that of the surrounding quicksand liquid.Try to lay on your back.

2. Remove heavy belongings.

Any heavy objects on you will work against your chances of survival. This could be anything from a laptop to a backpack. Strip them off your back while you still can, and if the contents are too valuable to lose, try to throw them to dry land. However, understand that any forceful movements can embed you in the quicksand even further.


3. Move slowly.

The sand will release you eventually, as long as you don’t struggle against it. You can try to slowly swim out of quicksand, but be prepared to take an hour to swim a couple feet. As I previously recommended, let the sand carry you to the top and flop on your back. Just do it slowly.

If you have some sort of pole or large stick or branch near you, grab it (slowly!) and lay it horizontally across the sand. Position the pole under your hips and lay across it – that will keep your hips (most people’s center of gravity) from sinking.

This method will keep you on top for any amount of time, until help arrives.

4. Communication and calling for help.

It is difficult to witness someone getting sucked in by quicksand. However, it’s even more difficult to witness them be devoured by the thing. So make sure that your friend or witness is calm so they can help.

As soon as you can, speak loudly but calmly to them. Do not panic and garble out something like “Help me you fool! I’m dying, DYING, can’t you see! Help!” This will just confuse and scare them. Something more appropriate would be: “Throw me a rope,” in a firm, calm voice.

Do not try grabbing onto someone's hand to pull yourself you -- quicksand is strong and you run the risk of pulling the person in or dislocating your shoulder.

"Help me, you idiots!"
"Help me, you idiots!" | Source

5. Anticipate solid ground.

Many pools of quicksand are not deep. It’s very possible that your feet will hit solid ground after you sink waist deep; from then you can easily walk to shore or proper yourself forward (albeit the difficulty).

However, bear in mind that as you move to shore, the hard ground might drop off or turn to mush. Do not relax until you have hit the shore.

Indiana Jones handled it well until he found out he'd have to use a snake to get out.
Indiana Jones handled it well until he found out he'd have to use a snake to get out. | Source

Bear Grylls' take on escaping quicksand:

However, in certain quicksands it is not as easy. Without professional help. you run the massive risk of death. The quicksand can compress your legs causing deep vein thrombosis, and if you sink to your chest, it can cut off your breath.

It is clear that the best thing to do is to tread carefully and pay attention to your surroundings. Make sure you never need to take these steps on escaping quicksand!

Quicksand Quiz

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    • Danida profile image

      Danida 4 years ago from London

      @FlourishAnyway: I may need to write up something about snakes then!

    • Danida profile image

      Danida 4 years ago from London

      @Eiddwen: Thanks!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      A great read and thanks for sharing.


    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      Between quicksand and the snake that I recently nearly put my freakin hand on while walking in the woods -- I may never go outside again. At least with quicksand, I have some survival tips now.

    • Danida profile image

      Danida 4 years ago from London

      @Jodah: It's always good to be prepared -- you never know where you may end up!

      And the quiz works, but I don't think iPads and iPhones can run it.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      I've never encountered quicksand, but it pays to always be prepared so this hub was helpful in that respect. Good videos too. I read this on my IPad so maybe this is just my problem, but all I got of the quicksand quiz was the quiz. Anyway well written hub, voted up.

    • Danida profile image

      Danida 4 years ago from London

      @billybuc: I hope so too! :)

    • Danida profile image

      Danida 4 years ago from London

      @RTalloni: Thanks! And although it is possible to escape, I don't know how well I'd cope, so I'd still be taking irregular breaths haha!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      Well that was interesting! I've passed by quicksand in the Turnagain Arm mudflats area and wondered what a wanderer might run into. Since escaping the stuff is doable I'll be able to take regular breaths the next time we are there. :) Thanks for a look at the situation and the escape possibilities.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well I certainly hope I never have to try these suggestions. :)