The Terrifying Reason Why You Shouldn’t Dig Holes At The Beach

<span class="copyright">the_burtons via Getty Images</span>
the_burtons via Getty Images

Not that anybody is rushing to the beach during this distinctly miserable summer, but if you do, you might want to skip the time-honoured tradition of digging holes in the sand.

I know, I know, what’s the point in even going if you can’t carve out your own little cave while watching the tide gently to-and-fro in your peripheral?

Unfortunately, the problem with digging holes in the sand is that it can very quickly go from a little bit of fun to lethal, with almost no warning.

The risk of digging holes in the sand at the beach

Writing for The ConversationStephen P. Leatherman, a Coastal Science Researcher said: “Digging holes in sand might seem innocent, but if the hole is deep enough and collapses on a person, it is extremely difficult to escape.

“In fact, research suggests more people die from sand burial suffocation than from shark attacks.”

Earlier this year, a 7-year-old girl died after her and her brother dug a 1.5 metre hole and it collapsed in on her, burying her alive.

Leatherman explained: “Dry, loose grains of sand will form a pile with a slope angle of about 33 degrees, termed its angle of repose.

“The angle of repose is the steepest angle at which a pile of grains remains stable, and the force of friction between each grain determines that stability.”

He warned that when it comes to digging holes and building sandcastles, the sand is only stable while it’s still moist. Once it dries out, the hole that’s been dug completely collapses in on itself.

He said: “Rescuing someone from a collapsed sand hole is very difficult because sand is both heavy and unstable. As rescuers scoop away sand to free the victim, the hole will continue to collapse under the rescuers’ weight and refill with sand.

“Rescuers have only about three to five minutes to save a person who is trapped in a sand hole before they suffocate.”

He recommended that beachgoers never dig a hole deeper than the knee height of the shortest person in your group – with 0.6 metres being the maximum depth.