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How to Get Out of Quicksand Safely

Arun Prabhu
Quicksand is not what you've seen in the movies. You won't go under. You won't get stuck in as hard as the movie stars. Maybe it's in their diet of something, but all the movie stars seem to just sink and sink when it comes to quicksand. Here's how average people survive average quicksand.
The thing is, any sand can turn into quicksand. All it needs is to get super-saturated with water or to be placed over plate movements in the form of earthquakes. The idea is to reduce the friction between the sand particles to a near zero, so that they just don't stick to each other and act like a very thick liquid.

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So quicksand can be found almost anywhere there is water or an earthquake. You'll found it mostly around rivers or over any underground water sources. You'll find numerous sign posts reminding you where the quicksand pools are every time you hike along a river or a lake.

Knowing and Avoiding Quicksand

There is no actual reason to completely avoid all the quicksand in the world. It would be ironic to take the longer route around a bog in a hike, return home late and tired, then go for a mud spa or mud bath to relax the other day!
Average quicksand doesn't really suck you in the moment you step foot in it. More important is the fact that it acts just like water, only thicker. That means it follows buoyancy. Since humans are buoyant, you should be able to 'float' on the quicksand, if it's watery enough.
It is also not as deep as one would presume. The hole is definitely not some sort of a bottomless pit filled with quicksand. That is impossible and illogical (you simply can't fill a 'bottomless' pit). Most types are a few inches thick to maybe about waist-deep.
So if you think about it, if you really do get caught and panic, thinking you're not making it out alive, you're just going to get really dirty and embarrass yourself in front of the other hikers.
The soil types that form quicksand are not many. You need an originally smooth and fine texture of sand which, when mixed with water, forms a sludge that allows heavier objects to slip in on application of pressure.

Getting Out of Quicksand

The problem is, you can't just tell by looking if the land ahead is plain sand, mud or quicksand. Which is why you may get stuck in it, when you think it's mud and try to march harder. In case you are stuck, here are some ways to get out safely.

Lose Equipment and Weight

The best way to look out for quicksand is with a long and sturdy stick. It will help you walk along the hike and if you come across a suspicious looking area, just poke it with the stick. If it goes in easily, it means there's quicksand ahead of you.
Avoid the area and go around it. If you have no option but to cross the quicksand, check for the thickness by poking it with the stick. If it's only a few inches thick, you can walk right over it. Place your first step on the area which you poked with the stick, then poke a new area ahead with your stick. Keep checking for the thickness that way.
It takes quite some time for your feet to get stuck in the quicksand, so you can be agile enough to cross it without any problems. The worst would be your shoes and socks getting dirty. But, that's what a hike means. Again, do this if you have no other option but to cross the area.
If you do get stuck in some deeper area of the quicksand and are carrying something heavy, lose it immediately. The heavier you are, the faster you'll sink, so take off your backpack and any heavy ropes or other accessories and throw them away from the quicksand. This should always be your first step to get out of deep quicksand.

Stay Calm

It will be very hard to do, especially if you're stuck in for the first time. You will, simply put, have your life flashing by your eyes, but only if you don't open them and take a look around. You'll realize that you're sinking far slower than you thought you would be. So, what do you do now?
Just stay calm, there's absolutely no need to panic; one, because you're really not going to get sucked in and two, because at the moment, panic is your worst enemy. If anything were to happen to you, it would be solely because you tried to scramble out of the pit out of fearfulness.
There's actually another thing to add here. To stay calm, you need take deep breaths, which would expand your lungs and increase your buoyancy! So all in all, you would be rising out of the pit because of your calm self.

The final point here is exhaustion. This is another reason you really need to stay calm and not exert yourself.
There are some things you can do to get out of the quicksand, but for that, you need to conserve your energy. You may not be successful in the first attempt, which means you'll have to try again, which means you'll need all the energy you can get.

Spread Your Body Weight

If you have sunk till your knees in quicksand, quickly adjust your body weight. You need to shift your center of gravity away from directly above your legs. You can slow down the rate at which you sink, giving you more time to relax and get out.
When you're stuck till your feet, sit down on the quicksand, very slowly. If you're stuck till your hips, bend backwards, slowly, to shift your center of gravity. Fall on your back as slowly as possible. Then you can use your upper body as a counterweight against your legs to pull them up.

Pulling Your Legs Up And Crawling Out

When you lie on your back, you can slowly pull your legs back up. Do this only one leg at a time. Do not try to wriggle out, you'll only sink in deeper by shaking the sand around you. Take one leg out and then the other. Once you do that, you can slowly crawl your way out of the pit. If you're really close to solid ground, you can just roll towards it.
If you're farther inside the quicksand from solid ground, you need to creep your way back to it. Patience is key here, you need to be alert to the quicksand below you and still go slow enough to not get stuck due to excessive movements. Use your hands and the toes on your feet to move successfully out of the pit.
Here's a recap of the things you will need to get out of quicksand- a stick, lots of energy saved, a relaxed body, slow movements and buoyancy. So it remains as a 'if you got in, get out yourself' situation. So just get out, get yourself cleaned and go home to tell the story to family and friends!