Is "Quicksand" A Hollywood Myth?

Everybody has seen those “B” movies where an explorer (usually in the jungle) steps into an innocent-looking pool, and finds himself sinking into soft sand and water. No matter how he struggles, he sinks…usually the scene ends with a hand held up, sinking into the swamp. I’ve always wondered-is this stuff (quicksand) for real? Do people really sink like a stone into it? And, where do you usually find it?:confused:

Read this, “How Quicksand works”.

Yes, there really is such a thing as quicksand. And yes, the more you struggle, the deeper you sink. Usually, however, it’s not so deep that you can sink completely over head in it. It’s also very easy to get out of. All you need to do is lie on your back, and “swim” slowly towards the edge.

More info here.

I just saw an episode of “Worst Case Scenario” (on Discovery channel maybe?), and there was a segment on quicksand and how to get out of it. This quicksand looked like thick, dark, muddy slime, not the watery grainy stuff you see in movies. I think it was the first time I saw what real quicksand looked like.

Anyway, the story was this guy was stuck in quicksand for two days, but learned how to get out of it in probably under an hour when the makers of this show invited him to be a part of this segment and be shown how to escape. It was cool.

If you think quicksand is weird, consider quick clay. Looks like clay. You can walk on it. People have even built houses on it. In fact, it seems exactly like clay… except that it’s thixotropic. This means that, if disturbed in exactly the wrong way, it turns into a fluid. And if it’s on a hillside, the whole hillside is going to wash away in a muddy avalanche - liquefaction with a vengeance. A farmer in Rissa, Norway, unwittingly triggered a massive slide in 1978. He was just trying to build on to his barn when his excavations crossed the barrier between safe, normal clay and the unstable quick clay. Seven farms ended up in the nearby lake by the time it was over.

“Solid” earth can pull some mighty strange tricks…

Cecil on quicksand :slight_smile: :

The Norwegian Geotechnical Institute has movies of the quick clay slide. It’s nasty looking stuff !

I was hiking the Paria River once, which has lots of quicksand in it, none of which is all that much beyond a couple feet deep. Aside from an ankle injury and a lost boot from a couple people I was hiking with, no big deal.

This sentence makes no sense to me. Can you clarify?

I saw a Discovery Channel-ish type program on a fishing town in England. The fishermen drive out on the beach at low tide to set nets across tidal flows. Highly dangerous work, due to quicksand. Very cold water. The usual “just relax and float on top” doesn’t help when you’re freezing to death, the tide is coming in and your dune buggy is sucking you down.

I think what it means is that the guy had, on a previous occasion, been stuck in quicksand for two days and had eventually gotten out or been rescued. Now, having been shown how to negotiate quicksand by the makers of the TV show, he would be able to get out of the same situation in less than an hour. That’s my interpretation, FWIW.

Try it like this, GuanoLad, the bold text is my minor addition to SuperLorie’s post:

"…the story was this guy was stuck in quicksand for two days, but after he was eventually freed and later came on the show he learned how to get out of it in probably under an hour… "

I did not see the show, but that’s how I interpreted the post. Cheers!

simulpost! Sorry imhendo, you weren’t there on preview, I promise!

You also clarified it better than I did.

Quicksan exists, but true quicksand depends upon an uprush of water to keep the sand in suspension (sort of a natural fluidized bed), so I suspect it’s extremely rare. “Quick clay” exist (as described above) – I once lost a pair of shoes in it. But that’s no the same as quicksand.

Quicksand in the movies is a lot more common, I suspect, fr several reasons:

1.) It lets you doom your heroes (or villains) without blood or violence. Good G-rated death.
2.) It’s an easy effect to fake. You use a cork tank – tank full of water with bits of cork (possibt colored) floating on top. It looks like a deep pool of granular stuff, but it’s just a pool of water with a skim of cork on top. I suspect the actors have to b careful not to clear large open spaces in the cork when they’re in the tank. Look at circa 1950s jungle movies, or the Outer Limits episode with Adam West on Mars (I think it’s “The Invisible Enemy”)
One thing that really bugs me is quicksand in the desert – since quicksand requires an uprush of water you’re not likely to find this in the desert (as in Lawrence of Arabia or the first Brendan Fraser Mummy movie). If here is a comparable phenomenon, it’s probably sort of like a sand sinkhole, but for all I know the movies are making it up. Again, it’ easy to fake – you have a sand container with a trap in the bottom that can shut – say rubber or something. Look at The Princess Bride or the remake of Invaders from Mars, or the original Invaders from Mars, for that matter, orThe Mole People, or lots of other flicks. You just have to make sure that you’v got more sand in your box than it takes to run out befoe your actor makes it through.

Bergen Evans reported in The Natural History of Nonsense that quicksand has roughly twice the buoyancy of water alone, so that a person caught in it can extricate themselves fairly easily provided they do not panic and begin thrashing about.

The World Wide Web accomodates all sorts of tastes, and so it was that I stumbled, by chance, on a site for quicksand enthusiasts a couple of years back. Apparently quicksand provides a sort of discreet bondage fantasy for some people, with pictures of Barbara Feldon or Vera Miles sinking in the mire serving for them as a kind of porn no censor, as yet, has managed to suppress. Just now I looked again, and could not find this site.

While Hollywood has done a lot to mythologize quicksand, interest in it definitely predates the movies. A villain drowns in quicksand in the 19th Century novel Lorna Doone, for instance.

Good Lord. Quicksand porn. :eek: Now I’ve heard of everything.

Thanks mhendo and stockton, that’s what I meant.

Sorry I wasn’t more clear, Guanolad :slight_smile:

Beg to differ, having been sucked into the stuff once. Totally innocuous looking sandy riverbed, walking along, and then you are knee deep. You struggle to get out and you go deeper. VERY shocking experience.

Fortunately the patch I landed in at a wee lass of eight or so was only about waist deep (and apparently they don’t usually get much deeper than a few feet anyhow), and my brother was close-by to yank me out. Of course the ranch hands cordoned off the area and somehow either refilled or otherwise ‘fixed’ it, but at that point I learned there was a reason (besides the snakes and other wild critters) for carrying a stick while out walking – like testing the ground in front of you!

Haven’t thought of that in years - thanks! :dubious:

No one has mentioned the Great Grimpen Mire?

egads, Sherlock!