What Is Quick Sand?

Quick sand is not a particular type of sand but a condition that is happening to the sand and is not dangerous.

The image is indelible to all moviegoers. The Western bad guy takes a misstep in the desert and falls into a patch of trembling quicksand. Just out of the reach of the nearby tree, the struggling outlaw is inexorably sucked slowly but surely to his doom in the merciless quagmire.

Could it happen to you?

Quicksand is really not any special kind of sand, it is actually a condition that is happening to a patch of sand. There is an insistent flow of water beneath the surface, often an underground spring, that agitates the grains of sand, weakening them and lifting the grains apart. Each grain of sand is surrounded by a thin film of water and as they lose friction with each other, the solid mass breaks asunder. The water is not strong enough, however, to completely disperse the sand and the resultant soupy pool therefore can look like solid ground. Although the condition is most familiar in sand, any soil can become 'quick'.

Quicksand is found most anywhere water and sand mix every day. Good places to find quicksand are on ocean coasts, near sandy creek beds and area of sand over an impervious clay substructure. Another good place to find quicksand is in hilly country with abundant caves and underground springs lurking beneath. The desert country of the southwest is such a place and, since there is often no apparent source of water nearby, the unexpected quicksand was a natural to catch the devious fancy of a Hollywood screenwriter.



But unlike the bottomless pits of doom depicted in American westerns, most patches of quicksand are only a few inches to several feet deep. And quicksand does not pull its victim down to lethal depths like a deranged Hoover. It is, however, possible to perish in quicksand but, just like drowning in vegetable soup, you really have to work at it.

Should you stumble into quicksand you will sink just as you sink in water. If the quicksand is shallow, you can retrace your steps and extricate yourself from the sandy tentacles. But if the quicksand is deeper there is still little to worry about. Since the water is slightly more dense than than the human body it is possible to float in quicksand just as you would in a swimming pool.

In fact, since quicksand is saturated with liquid it is far heavier than water and will allow you to float even higher, provided you move slowly and allow the sandy potion to flow under your body. As it is, do not thrash about as you position yourself into a floating posture. If you are traveling with a hiking stick, and it doesn't reach the bottom of the quicksand, you should lay the pole on the quicksand and pull your body over it until it rests beneath your back. Use the pole for leverage to eventually raise your leg out of the quicksand as you reach friendly turf. You may even be able to swim to firmer ground by dog-paddling as if you fell into a mountain lake.

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