If you’re studying survival skills, realism is key. It might be interesting to think about some hypothetical alien invasion or nuclear winter, but your life is far more likely to be threatened by more mundane events — a serious car crash, for example. Basing your approach to survival on fictional stories can get you in big trouble, because movies and TV shows often include misleading information or perpetuate myths. One such example is the classic trope of quicksand.

The above clip from Baywatch is a particularly absurd demonstration of the quicksand myth. The panicked frat boy sinks deeper and deeper into the sand until his head disappears beneath the surface. Thankfully, fast-acting protagonists give him an air tube to breathe through and fetch a truck to winch him out. You don’t need to be a lifeguard to see that this portrayal is unrealistic, but the underlying myth has been ingrained in our collective consciousness through countless Hollywood scenes.

So, is quicksand really life-threatening, and if so, how can you escape it?

The following video from The Infographics Show takes a comprehensive look at quicksand, the misconceptions surrounding it, and how to actually survive an encounter with this non-Newtonian fluid. Yes, people have died as a result of quicksand, but it’s typically exposure, wildlife, or rising water that actually kills them before they manage to escape. The bad news is that it’s nearly impossible to get pulled straight up and out of quicksand, as a result of the immense amount of force that would require. The good news is that you won’t get sucked entirely beneath the surface like the movies show, and it’s easy to work your way out if you stay calm.

Even though you’ll probably never face a Hollywood-style quicksand pit in real life, it’s worth remembering the realistic survival skill that’s associated with this substance.

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