Shell Seekers Escape Icy ‘Quicksand’ on Ocean City Beach

Shell Seekers Escape Icy ‘Quicksand’ on Ocean City Beach

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Charleen McCall and her fiancé, Bob Forman, had the beach to themselves last Saturday afternoon near 21st Street.

The air temperature was only 18 degrees, but the sun was out, the tide was low, and McCall said she was thrilled for the chance to get out of the house to look for shells and beach glass.

The couple had walked from their home at 23rd Street and West Avenue, and had made it down the beach almost to 20th Street. McCall was walking toward the ocean below the high-tide line but was still about 15 feet away.

That’s when the 64-year-old McCall took a step into sand she knew was too soft. She tried to lift her foot but that only made it sink deeper. The soft sand soon swallowed both her boots. Then she sank until her knees, thighs and hips were buried.

“It was seconds,” McCall said. “It was literally a sucking. I was just going down.”

Crying and screaming, McCall looked to Forman and was horrified to see that Forman, too, was sinking. Suddenly the glory of being alone on the beach seemed a lot more terrifying.

But as Forman’s own boots were buried, he was able to fall forward onto harder sand, McCall said. He was then able to pull McCall out of the “sucking hole.”

Shocked and wet, the couple made the long and frozen walk back home, and they suffered no injury.

With a day or two of warmth behind her and a little more time to think about it, McCall decided to let other people know about her experience.

“I want to get it out there,” she said. “If I were a jogger by myself, I don’t know what would have happened.

McCall also started a search for answers about what exactly she had experienced and what caused it. She wrote to the city and posted a note on Ocean City Patch.

Frank Donato, Ocean City’s Emergency Management coordinator, said he’s never heard of anybody experiencing anything similar in Ocean City.

Scott Morgan, an Ocean City police detective and Emergency Management deputy coordinator, said one plausible explanation could have to do with a recent beach replenishment project in Ocean City (though the project ended eight months ago and six blocks away from where McCall sank). Morgan referred to a YouTube video of “Lake Michigan Quicksand.”

Jim Eberwine, a retired National Weather Service meteorologist and expert on local conditions, pointed to a scientific explanation that indicates quicksand can occur wherever sand and underground water mix.

It’s unclear if January’s exceptionally cold weather had anything to do with the phenomenon.

McCall, who used to live in Ocean City, Md., and has lived part-time in Ocean City, N.J., for 10 years, said she’s never experienced anything similar. She hasn’t been back to the beach this week.

“I don’t know when I’ll go down again,” she said.

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