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Q: unrecovered body of drowning victim ( Answered 3 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: unrecovered body of drowning victim
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: myconundrum-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 12 Sep 2005 13:22 PDT
Expires: 12 Oct 2005 13:22 PDT
Question ID: 567257
a female relative drowned while canoeing on an Ontario lake. The lake
is 320' deep in places. Her body has not been recovered since July
1st. She was not wearing a life jacket. Is there a chance that her
body is suspended at a certain level and would therefore not be found
by a search of the bottom?
sincere thanks for any useful information.
Subject: Re: unrecovered body of drowning victim
Answered By: denco-ga on 12 Sep 2005 14:47 PDT
Rated:3 out of 5 stars
My condolences on your loss, myconundrum-ga.

A frank presentation of these circumstances might be disturbing, so I
apologize in advance if the following causes any discomfort.

A reminder of the "Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on
Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute
for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal,
investment, accounting, or other professional advice."

This University of Dundee web page speaks directly about this subject.


"A body in water will usually sink but because the specific gravity of a
body is very close to that of water then small variations e.g. air trapped
in clothing have a considerable effect on buoyancy. Having sunk to the
bottom the body will remain there until ... sufficient buoyancy to allow
it to rise to the surface and float. ... The principal determinant is the
temperature of the water so that in deep very cold water e.g. the North
American Great Lakes or the ocean the body may never resurface."

You should read the article above in detail for all of the information,
but again, it is a frank description of the process, so it might be
disturbing to read.

This Yahoo! Groups posting speaks to how specific gravity plays a role in
all of this.  Some parts of the original posting might be disturbing.

"... drowning victims will sink to the point they displace their weight in
water, and then will stay there ... If the victim is denser than water, he
or she will displace more water, until totally immersed. If the victim is
less dense than water, the victim will not displace as much water, and will

This Moyle Information Services for Law Enforcement page provides details,
again some of which might be distrurbing.

"The drowning victim's body typically sinks shortly after death. It will
resurface 3 days to 3 weeks after death. ... Lake Superior is said to be
too cold offshore for a drowning victim to decompose, so that they never

My reading in detail of the above articles indicates that a body will either
be on the bottom of the body of water, and depending on the temperature of
the body of water, might very well stay on the bottom, or it will eventually
rise to the surface.

At some time the body might be in the process of rising very slowly to the
surface, but my reading indicates that it would not stay suspended at any
one certain level for any real period of time.

If you need any clarification, please feel free to ask.

Search strategy:

Google search on: "specific gravity" drowning

Looking Forward, denco-ga - Google Answers Researcher
myconundrum-ga rated this answer:3 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: unrecovered body of drowning victim
From: philonthejob-ga on 16 Sep 2005 08:41 PDT
First let me say that I have no experience with freshwater. I served
in the US Coast Guard, and my uncle did 37 years in the NYC Harbor
Patrol, so my comments are more real world and practical, rather than

Drowning victims, are usually found very close to where they drowned,
when they are submerged. They only time that a body will move, is if
something or someone moves it, or it floats to the surface and floats
away with tide or current.

There are other factors that will determine if a body will float or
sink, victims wearing heavy boots and clothing will stay submerged
longer if not indefinitely. Swimmers from beaches, or boats wearing
only bathing suits, usuall surface in a matter of days, because they
are usually swimming in warm weather.

Winter jumpers in NYC will usually be recovered in spring, when the
waters warm up, and can float considerable distances because of our
severe tides.

Murder victims that have been gutted, wearing cement shoes, or
weighted down significantly are sometimes never recovered. Their
bodies simply float away in globules, and are consumed by marine life
and bacteria.

In your case in a cold freshwater lake, a rather large one. The body
is probably on the bottom near where she drowned. In a lake that size,
and depth, a thorough search of the bottom is not economical, or
feasable. It is the proverbial needle in a haystack.

If she was wearing clothing, or suffered certain trauma, it's possible
that her body may never surface. Successful searches and recoveries of
bodies have occurred in deeper waters, but they involved millions of
dollars of equipment, of the US Navy's deep submergence unit. This
obviously is very expensive, and only available to the government.

My condolences.

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