Quicksand, also known as sinking sand, is a colloid consisting of fine granular material (such as sand, silt or clay) and water. It forms in saturated loose sand when the sand is suddenly agitated. When water in the sand cannot escape, it creates a liquefied soil that loses strength and cannot support weight. Quicksand can form in standing water or in upward flowing water (as from an artesian spring). In the case of upward flowing water, forces oppose the force of gravity and suspend the soil particles.

The saturated sediment may appear quite solid until a sudden change in pressure or shock initiates liquefaction. This causes the sand to form a suspension and lose strength. The cushioning of water gives quicksand, and other liquefied sediments, a spongy, fluid-like texture. Objects in liquefied sand sink to the level at which the weight of the object is equal to the weight of the displaced soil/water mix and the submerged object floats due to its buoyancy.

Soil liquefaction may occur in partially saturated soil when it is shaken by an earthquake or similar forces. The movement combined with an increase in pore pressure (of groundwater) leads to the loss of particle cohesion, causing buildings or other objects on that surface to sink.


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