# Could a person swim in a pool full of oil?

Pretty self-explanatory, really. I’m just wondering if the viscosity of the oil - let’s say, a cooking oil like olive oil - would prevent a person from being able to swim through the oil. Also the fact that the oil is lighter than the water from which this person is largely composed, which I would assume would make them sink to the bottom.

I don’t know how ‘syrup’ compares to oil WRT viscosity or density, but you can swim in that.

I think any ‘syrup’ will be denser than water, and since oil is less dense …

According to Wikipedia olive oil has a specific gravity at 293 K of 911 kg/m[sup]3[/sup], at first glance that looks like a serious problem for any swimmer.

So that’s approx 91% of the density of water, giving 91% of the buoyant force to counter gravity. And it looks like depending on body mass and lung capacity in use, the density of the human body can range from 944 to 1010 kg per cubic meter; yeah, we’ve got some problems staying afloat. Which makes sense; fatty tissue is generally one of the things that makes people good ‘floaters’, but even that wouldn’t help much when it came to floating in something of similar composition.

Swimming isn’t just floating though. The action of the crawl and butterfly strokes can do a lot to keep a swimmer at the surface by directing the oil downward on top of propelling the swimmer forward. However there are known cases where people can drown in low density fluids. I don’t know how oil compares to the average density of a cranberry bog, but I’ve heard you can drown in those because of the low density of the cranberry/water mixture.

Except that now we’ve got a medium with 90% of the density of water, which means that swimming actions are only providing 90% of the thrust that they did in water. You’re going to have to stroke/kick harder and faster than you did in water in order to stay afloat and/or make forward progress.

You are as buoyant in oil as you would be in water with 10% of your body weight in lead weights strapped to your body.

However, there is some “oil” with densities close to that of water. We used to burn “Bunker C” or “No.6” fuel oil and sometimes we would take a shipment with density of around 1. However the viscosity is so high that it would be impossible to “swim” in it, and if you were on the surface you would sink only slowly.