Worst-Case Wednesday: How to Escape from Quicksand

Posted by Marissa Stern

There may come a time when you are feeling especially Indiana Jones-like and find yourself walking through an area where quicksand is native and suddenly begin to sink into the ground. You may panic (which is not surprising) and need a quick way to figure out how to get out of your predicament before it is too late.

Well, lucky for you, The Complete Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook has the answer. (And hopefully you have a pole handy so you don’t have to hold on to a snake in order to be rescued like poor Indy.) Here is how to escape from quicksand:

1. When walking in quicksand country, carry a stout pole-it will help you get out should you need to.

2. As soon as you start to sink, lay the pole on the surface of the quicksand.

3. Flop onto your back on top of the pole. After a minute or two, equilibrium in the quicksand will be achieved, and you will no longer sink.

4. Work the pole to a new position: under your hips and at right angles to your spine. The pole will keep your hips from sinking, as you (slowly) pull out first one leg and then the other.

5. Take the shortest route to firmer ground, moving slowly.

How to Avoid Sinking:

Quicksand is just ordinary sand mixed with upwelling water, which makes it behave like a liquid. However, quicksand—unlike water—does not easily let go. If you try to pull a limb out of quicksand, you have to work against the vacuum left behind. Following are a few tips:

· The viscosity of quicksand increases with shearing—move slowly so the viscosity is as low as possible.

· Floating on quicksand is relatively easy and is the best way to avoid its clutches. You are more buoyant in quicksand than you are in water. Humans are less dense than freshwater, and saltwater is slightly more dense. Floating is easier in saltwater than freshwater and much easier in quicksand. Spread your arms and legs far apart and try to float on your back.