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How to get out of a Bog or Quicksand

Finding yourself stuck in a bog, mud, swamp, marsh or quicksand can be very frightening, but if you know more about the types of habitat and how to get out and rescue yourself and others, it could save lives.

Bogs are wetlands, and although they often look like land, they are in fact like a floating carpet of soil and decomposed matter full of water, up to 90-95% water. There are many types of habitat we call bogs, but most are either peat moorland bogs (blanket bogs) or waterlogged marshland.

Estuaries and flat sandy bays such as Morecambe are extremely dangerous at low tide, and there have been many reported tragedies where people have got stuck and drown as the tide rushes in over flat sands. Never walk out onto these types of sands or mudflats.

There are many types of terrain that can cause you to get stuck, in most cases with a bit of a tug with your legs you'll get free and onto 'terra firma', but sometimes it can end up being a lot more difficult than that.

Rule 1 - Avoidance

Most people end up in bogs, marshes or quicksand because: they stray from a route or path  or get lost,  they follow their dog into  dangerous ground,  the ground is unusually  waterlogged, they keep going thinking it  will get better (but it gets worse), or  they're unaware or unprepared  for the potential danger.

Don't make these mistakes, and don't try to be a hero and struggle on. Always turn back if it's safer to do so and get back to firmer ground if you feel that you're out of your comfort and ability zone or you're not sure about how to tackle the terrain. And, unless you're very confident of your ability, don't go alone onto higher ground or potentially boggy lowland areas.

Watch out for the signs of boggy areas: pools of water, dark coloured peat or mud, very wet grass or reeds, tussocks surrounded by mud areas. Quicksand is harder to spot, but the sand or mud is usually darker because of water saturation.

Rule 2 - Don't panic 

The first thing most people do if they fall into bogs or quicksand is to panic. It's a human instinct; you have no firm ground beneath you, you've lost control, you may have sunk up to your knees, waist or worse, and you start desperately trying to struggle out of the situation. Most bog-related fatalities are caused by a combination of stress, panic, exhaustion and hypothermia (cold), not by being 'sucked under'.

Waving your arms and legs about is not going to get you out, in fact it will have the opposite effect and may pull you further under.

Rule 3 - Assess the situation 

Try and calmly and logically  assess your situation.
How deep down are you? Calves,  knees, waist, more?
Is there anyone around to help  you? Hopefully there is.
What kit have you got on? Can  you let go of your rucksack for example.
Is there an easy escape?  Something to grab and slowly heave yourself out, or stones about for leverage?
Are there other people in the area that might help? If so, shout or blow a whistle (assuming you can reach it) 

Rule 4 - Get help

If there are other walkers with  you or nearby they'll obviously try to help, but be careful that you don't  pull them into bog with you. Anything to grab onto can help  - stick, walking pole, belt, plank, rope, clothing, scarf, etc.
Rescuers can be at risk, so only help if you're on firmer ground and it's safe for you to do so.

Rule 5 - Slowly does it

The key to getting out of a mud bog, peat bog or quicksand is to move slowly but purposefully. Rapid movement won't help, it may agitate or extend the bog area around you, and could quickly sap your energy. Take it inch by inch if you have to.

Try to step back out if you  can.
Don't panic - it may be a shock, and cold and smelly, but it's vital not to struggle and to make
slow movements rather than wriggling and pulling wildly (easy to say,
harder to do).
Don't grab wildly at plants unless they're strong enough to help you.
Slowly pull out one leg, don't worry if the other leg goes a bit deeper, the aim is to free one limb.
Make sure one leg is out first before trying to free the other one.
If you're nearing or above  waist level you need to try and increase your surface area to the point  where you can very slowly pull out a leg. Lie back to evenly distribute your weight on the surface, spread out to evenly distribute your weight and try and get into more of a floating position - remember bogs are mainly water.
Once legs are free, snake or combat crawl (with your elbows) until you reach more solid ground; resist  the temptation to try and walk.

For bogs, mud and swamp where there is a higher saturation level (more water), you may be able to move enough to make a wide breaststroke-style swimming action to get yourself to more solid ground.


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