What is quicksand and what to do if you get stuck

Quicksand is natural phenomenon that occurs on beaches all over the world. Getting stuck can be deadly so we explore what to do to escape its grip.

Ste Wright | 3 min read

Quicksand is a type of soil or sand that behaves like a liquid when it is agitated. It is formed when water seeps up from underground and saturates loose sand or soil, creating a mixture that is denser than water. As a result, quicksand is not actually a specific type of sand. Getting stuck in quicksand can be a frightening experience, as the mixture can trap you and make it difficult to escape. Becoming stuck can be deadly, especially when stuck during a rising tide. You should avoid it, especially in areas that signpost the dangers of quicksand.

quicksand warning sign
When signposted, you should avoid beaches that are susceptible to quicksand

Remain calm and distribute your weight

If you find yourself in quicksand, the most important thing to do is to remain calm. Panicking will only cause you to sink further, and it can also make it more difficult for rescuers to reach you. Instead, take a deep breath and try to remain as still as possible. If you are wearing heavy clothing or carrying a backpack, try to remove it to reduce your weight.

Next, try to spread your weight as evenly as possible across the surface of the quicksand. Slowly and carefully move your legs in a motion similar to swimming or walking, as this can create a channel in the quicksand and allow you to slowly move towards firmer ground. It is important to avoid sudden movements or struggling, as this can cause the quicksand to become even more unstable.

Signal for help

If you are unable to move, try to signal for help. Use your mobile phone, whistle or shout as loud as you can. If you have a stick or other long object, use it to try to stabilize yourself or create a lever to help you pull yourself out. If you are with someone else, they can help by throwing a rope, a branch or any other long object that you can use to pull yourself out.

In some cases, it may be necessary to call for professional help, such as a search and rescue team or emergency services. These teams have the necessary equipment and training to safely extract people from quicksand, and they can also provide medical attention if necessary.

If you are alone and cannot signal for help, try to conserve your energy by sitting or lying down in a position that allows you to breathe easily. This can help you avoid becoming exhausted, which can make it more difficult to escape. It is also important to stay hydrated, so try to drink water if you have it with you.


In conclusion, quicksand is a natural phenomenon that can be encountered in many environments. While getting stuck in quicksand can be a frightening experience, it is important to remain calm and take the appropriate actions to extract yourself. By spreading your weight evenly, moving slowly and avoiding sudden movements, you can safely navigate out of quicksand and avoid further danger.

Always be aware of tidal movements as part of a general sea safety ethos. Tides can present many issues, non more than when stuck in quicksand. Finally, it is important to observe signs and educate friends and children about the dangers of quicksand.

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