That sinking feeling

Stuck in the mud

Submerged gravel bars, slippery rocks, and swift currents are all well within our comfort zone when it comes to aquatic work environments, and our sturdy wading boots have logged many thousands of hours providing traction, stability, and protection for our feet during various field efforts. Sometimes, however, a project’s conditions exceed the capabilities of our most trusted footwear. Such was the case with the soft mud of Humboldt Bay’s intertidal zone during a recent project. The muck stymied the movements of our biologists by repeatedly swallowing them up to their thighs (and sometimes higher).

Fortunately, some of our project collaborators were kind enough to lend us just the right gear for the sticky situation: strap-on mud shoes called Mudders. These devices, easily fastened over wading boots, consist of flexible plastic flanges that distribute a person’s weight over a larger surface area. Their function is the same as a duck’s feet on soft ground: spreading out an individual’s weight prevents sinking, and allows for much improved mobility on coastal mudflats (and other muddy, boggy, swampy, marshy, or soggy places). Not only do they create the sensation of “walking on water,” we also think this footwear makes quite a fashion statement.

Modeling mud boots