Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Who's afraid of quicksand?

Amanda and I both visited the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, a National Park near Chicago, as kids. Since it is only a few hours away, I’m sure we will return one day with Ezra and Fable, but unlike their mom and dad, they may not be able to scale Mount Baldy, the most prominent sand dune at the site.

Mount Baldy is temporarily closed. Last summer, a six-year-old boy was swallowed by the 123' dune after investigating a small depression in the sand. The boy was rescued after spending three hours beneath the sand, and scientists are still searching for an explanation to why this happened and how to prevent another similar incident.

When I heard this story I could not imagine a more frightening experience for a child. Sinking in sand was a nightmare come true. I, like all my friends, spent my entire childhood terrified of quicksand. Sand was a dangerous and unpredictable ground covering that should be avoided. Beaches were especially fraught. The only way to avoid sand was to swim in the ocean where you were basically lunch for Jaws. Quicksand was incorporated into our imaginary adventures, how to survive quicksand (don't panic or you will sink faster!) was a common topic of conversation, and all our fictional heroes had at some point faced this peril.

Flashing back to these memories, I realized I have not come across any mention of quicksand in the last 20 years. Is this still on kid’s radar? Are they still afraid of quicksand?

I stumbled across a Radiolab podcast that answers this very question.

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