Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Kaesen. Kaesen Wonders, “What is QUICKSAND?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Kaesen!
Have you ever been out for a hike and stopped at a sandy spot by the water to take a picture? As you rustle through your backpack, you notice something happening...the solid ground you were standing on is not solid at all. In fact, you seem to be sinking.
What's going on? Is the ground really trying to pull you in? You start to get a sinking feeling, because you know you've come across the topic of today's Wonder. What are we talking about? Quicksand, of course!
It may have a fancy name, but quicksand is basically just ordinary sand saturated with water. Saturated means the sand is soaked through and through. Under the right conditions, you can find it anywhere.
When water saturates an area of loose sand, you get quicksand. Although this goopy mixture of water and sand may appear solid, it cannot support weight very well.
Quicksand forms when water saturates an area of loose sand and the sand is agitated by flowing underground water or earthquakes. Vibrations caused by agitation and excess water reduce the friction that normally occurs between sand particles.
This means the sand begins to act more like a liquid than a solid. Once the sand liquefies, it loses its strength and ability to support heavy objects, such as a person standing on its surface.
If you have ever visited a beach, you already have some experience with sand friction. Dry sand can support your body weight with no problem. The friction between the millions of sand particles creates a stable surface to walk, run and play on.
Many people are surprised to learn that quicksand does not exist in the desert. Now that you know how quicksand is formed, you know that would be impossible, since the desert lacks water. You're much more likely to run (or step) into quicksand near riverbanks, beaches, lake shorelines, underground springs and marshes.
You've probably seen more than one movie character stop to rest for a moment only to be sucked into a pit of quicksand. However, quicksand is not the evil force of nature that movies portray it to be. In fact, quicksand is rarely more than a few feet deep.
If you step into a patch of quicksand, it may suck your shoes off, but it probably won't swallow you whole. If you do ever stumble into a patch of quicksand, the most important thing is to keep calm.
Once you begin to sink into quicksand, your reaction and body movements can dig you deeper and deeper in or they can help you wiggle out. Most people who drown in quicksand are in a state of panic and begin to flail their arms and legs. Moving a lot will only dig you further into the sandpit.
Quicksand is denser than water and the human body is less dense than quicksand, which means you can actually float more easily in quicksand than a swimming pool. The worst thing to do if you fall into quicksand is thrash around. Instead, just relax. Use slow motions to bring your body to the surface and then lay back. Most of the time, you will float and be able to paddle to safety!