I have been watching adventure movies since I was little. My worst nightmare was always getting lost in a tropical forest and accidentally stepping inside a swamp. I would be drowning, screaming for help and crying until I woke up in cold sweat. The drowning swamp scenes were very common in movies. In the 1960s, one in every 35 films features death caused by drowning in the swamp. On the other hand, in reality, there are deaths caused by drowning in swamps all the time. Therefore, in this article, I talk about what causes such drowning and how you can protect yourself if you actually run into such swamps.

Firstly, how can people be drowned by an area of soil? Drown, in the dictionary, means “die through submersion of water.” How is drowning possible when there is no body of water around? The technical term for such phenomenon is called quick sand condition. Quick sand condition can be caused by underground water, which is the common cause of quick sand, especially in the movies, and by earthquake and vibration. During such conditions, water pressure on the soil is increased, the water loosens the soil particle and thus lessens the soil’s strength to support weight. The soil is so fully saturated by water that it is liquified, which means that the soil has the property of liquid but it appears to be solid.

The more you struggle, the deeper you sink.

When you step onto an area of quicksand, this is when the tragedy begins. You are surrounded by liquefied soil. The more you struggle, the deeper you sink. Therefore, how can you save yourself during the time of life and death? First, stop worrying. The density of quick sand is much larger than that of human body. The buoyancy force will be able to lift you up as long as your body do not act against it purposefully. Second, get rid of any unnecessary items on yourself, for example, backpack and cell phone. Thirdly, try to lay back onto the soil and paddle to a safe area like you do backstroke swimming. Spread your arm and leg to increase surface area so that you will be able to float more easily.


However, recent research shows that people will not be drowned in quicksand. Instead, only half of the body will be stuck into the soil. Does it mean that we do not need to worry about it any more? The answer is no. Even though you will not be immersed into the soil, you will be able to escape either since lifting yourself one inch up will take as much force as you are trying to lift up a medium size car. If there is a high tide of sand coming over, you will be stuck under the soil and be smothered. 

If you make it through the end of this blog, you might be asking: why do I need to learn it? I am not like this anxious blogger who has childhood nightmare. Well, according to my research, quicksand is very likely to occur in Houston area. The soils in Houston are in nature looser than other kinds of soil and the excessive rain water here provides the excessive water to create a quicksand condition. Therefore, you are somewhat likely to encounter quicksand and test out whether my strategy is effective!


  1. Hammond, C. "BBC - Future - Can quicksand really suck you to your death?" BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2017.