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Auckland woman reveals how she survived North Shore quicksand

Author
Chris Marriner,
Publish Date
Mon, 27 Nov 2023, 2:54PM

Auckland woman reveals how she survived North Shore quicksand

Author
Chris Marriner,
Publish Date
Mon, 27 Nov 2023, 2:54PM

An Auckland woman who was nearly swallowed by quicksand at her local beach has revealed how she made her escape and credits advice she received as a teenager with saving her.

Vanessa Bray was walking on Milford Beach, on Auckland’s North Shore, on late Friday afternoon when she stepped on what she thought was solid sand — and straight into a scene from a Hollywood movie.

High tide wasn’t far away as Bray took to her local beach for a stroll, as she had done countless times before. But this time was different and it all happened in an instant, as she passed near a stormwater outfall.

“I took one step with my left leg,” Bray told the Herald, “and it went in shin-deep”.

Fearing she might lose her shoe, she planted her right leg in the sand for leverage — and it disappeared, up to her thigh.

Vanessa Bray took this photo after she escaped the sand.
Vanessa Bray took this photo after she escaped the sand.

Trapped in the sand at her local beach, largely deserted because of the blustery conditions and with the tide coming in, Bray needed to move fast, and says she instantly recalled advice she had pinned to her bedroom wall as a teenager.

The survival tips, taken from Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht’s Worst-Case Scenario series of books and cards, advise those stuck to remain vertical until they sink to their knees, then slowly flop onto their back, pulling their legs out before rolling to safety.

Bray almost got it right —she flopped onto her front — but she was able to roll to safety and grabbed the nearby steps down to the beach.

Once she was clear she realised she had twisted her ankle and knee from the force of having to pull herself free and, shocked by what had occurred, set about trying to discover how big the treacherous patch was.

She threw rocks into the sand, recording the results as they plunged down, and ascertained that the area was only about1m across.

Rocks thrown by Bray into the sand simply disappeared.
Rocks thrown by Bray into the sand simply disappeared.

“As soon as I got out I was like, I was shaking because I was like, ‘holy s***, what the hell just happened?’ and then I couldn’t sort of believe it,” she said.

Just a few minutes after she got out, the tide rolled in to cover the area in which she had become stuck.

Bray said she had never seen similar conditions at Milford or any other North Shore beach and told the Herald she worried about what might have happened had a child, an older person or a dog stepped onto the sand.

“They’d easily do themselves damage,” she said of the risk to some of the elderly Milford population.

Milford Beach is a popular destination. Photo / Dean Purcell
Milford Beach is a popular destination. Photo / Dean Purcell

She warned other beachgoers to be careful, especially around the stormwater outfalls and near high tide. She said she had returned to the beach at lower tide since and found the same spot to be completely firm.

She shared her experience online, posting a video of her near-miss and quickly racking up over half a million views.

One commenter suggested they would have been able to escape because they “watched Jumanji”.

Many others shared they had a childhood fear of quicksand and had been waiting for the moment they would fall in.

“Every 80s kid’s worst nightmare,” one wrote.

“Childhood fears finally realised in NZ,” a Kiwi commenter said.

“We been waiting for this forever, you did good.”

So what could have caused this generational trauma?

Chris Marriner is an Auckland-based journalist covering trending news and social media. He joined the Herald in 2003 and previously worked in the Herald’s visual team. He is still recovering from watching The NeverEnding Story as a child.

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