Don't let Hollywood fool you -- quicksand is not an automatic death sentence. In fact, escaping it is easier than you might think.
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Do you live in fear of dying in quicksand? Sure, we all do. But you have to carry on with life and I can make that easier for you. Quicksand, despite its fearsome reputation as swallower of hapless adventurers in places like Gilligan’s Island or -- more arcanely, Fantasy Island – is really just a little baby lamb of a hazard, if you know how to treat it.
Quicksand is merely a combination of sand, clay and water. Theoretically it can occur anywhere these three come together, but it’s typical in marshland, at beaches, near lakes, in swamps. The usual.
Quicksand is created when water seeps up into sand and doesn’t evaporate; it just stays put. The water saturates the sand, loosening the force of friction that normally holds dry sand particles together and creates a stable whole. The presence of water destabilizes sand, creating what’s called a colloid hydrogel. When you or Gilligan find yourself standing on a colloid hydrogel, you will sink.
What saves you is buoyancy. Simply put, water – plain old water – has a density of about 1 gram per cubic centimeter. The human body has an average density just slightly less than that. So ipso facto, humans tend to float in water. Quicksand is about twice as dense as water, which means that a human can float on quicksand like nobody’s business.
The key is remaining calm. Despite what people think, quicksand is usually just a couple of feet deep, not some bottomless pit.
Let’s spell out what to do in the nightmare scenario: Say you’re stuck up to your waist in a pit of quicksand and you can’t feel the bottom with your feet. You’re in a delicate situation. Do you struggle wildly? Do you pull your leg out as quick as you can? No! To pull your leg from quicksand it would take about the same amount of force required to lift a sedan. You wouldn’t want your friends to tie a rope around you and pull you out with a car, either: That would tear you clean in half!
The reason you’re so stuck is because the sand and water were mixed together by the introduction of you to it, making the quicksand more viscous. It’s harder to pull free from than to fall into.
What you want to do is gently wiggle your leg free. This allows water to seep into the space created by your leg movements. This saturates the quicksand, reducing its viscosity, and eventually lets you pull it free. Repeat with the other leg.
As you get more appendages and body parts free, lay back and spread out on top of the quicksand. That increases your surface area, giving you an even better opportunity to float. Once you have your body free and you’re on top of the quicksand, paddle calmly the heck out of there forever and never go back there ever again.
"Gilligan's Island" is the property of Warner Bros. Television.
Link to original clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gMstBYjZOg
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