Often seen in adventure movies, quicksand has become a common enemy for many explorers and adventurers. If you do come across it in your travels it's wise to know what to do if you ever become stuck.

Quicksand is made up of sand, clay or dirt particles that contain trapped water, with the water turning the sand into a thick liquid mud. The substance can collapse under the moving weight of anything that it comes into contact with. When it re-solidifies, it traps whatever has sunk into its depths.

It can be found in many places across Australia and is mainly found where creeks and rivers flow into the sea, on the beach at low tide and along riverbanks. Pieman Heads and Arthur River along Tasmania's west coast are notable spots where quicksand areas can be found.

You may not be aware that you're stepping into quicksand as it can appear solid at first glance, but it isn't until the person tries to step through it that the substance liquefies under their feet. If you're trapped, you can become vulnerable to external elements such as heat exhaustion and hypothermia.

Look out for warning signs if you're in an area that has wet terrain. This could include, riverbanks, swamps, lakes, tidal flats and underground springs. Take more care walking around after a storm too. If you notice water bubbling up from the ground, this could mean that there is quicksand ahead. Grab a stick and tap the ground to determine how solid it is.

How to get out of quicksand

  • Get rid of excess weight by throwing your backpack or anything you're carrying to the side, this way it will be easier to extract yourself.

  • Avoid taking large steps and try to take a few small steps backwards if you can to where the ground is solid. Try to keep your arms and head above the quicksand at all times. Don't front float on your stomach as this could cause your head to sink below the surface. Breathing deeply too can help to promote buoyancy.

  • Lean back into a back float position if you find that you're sinking, as this will evenly distribute your weight.

  • If you can, try and use any resources you have around you to stay above the surface, such as trees with reachable branches. If you have a trekking pole, lay the pole on the surface of the quicksand and lower your back onto it. This will help to free your legs.

  • Try and free your legs, move them slowly one at a time upward, patience is key here as it could take a while.

  • It's vital that you don't panic, staying calm will make the escape process easier.

  • Try and create slow movements in order to escape and avoid getting your friends to yank you out as this can make it worse.

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Information sourced from: Australian Geographic and Eagle Creek.

Image credit: Science Alcove

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

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