Posted in Monday Mayhem

Can Zombies Swim?

World War Z will be out on DVD and Blu-ray tomorrow. The official release dates to remember are September 17, 2013 for the U.S. and Canada, October 21, 2013 for the U.K., and October 23, 2013 for Australia. The big deal is not the release dates, but the content of the movie. I promise I won’t give you any spoilers for this film. This movie is too good to spoil for anyone. Am I looking forward to the release? How about asking me if a zebra has stripes. Today is Monday Mayhem, and today I’d like to concentrate on World War Z’s base of operations.

World War Z
World War Z

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, World War Z’s base of operations is a ship in the middle of the ocean. I think this is genius. What better way to avoid zombies than to float on water with little to no contact with the mainland.

Which begs the question: Can zombies swim?

Ah, let’s think about this from the perspective of the zombie. The undead know nothing. That’s a given. They function purely out of instinct—instinct being their craving for human flesh. They act on human presence, hunting humans down until they’re dead. But that human presence depends on a number of factors. What if humans have hidden themselves away to the point of disappearing? What then? Will the zombies find alternative food sources to satiate their hunger? What if humans appear resistant to the zombies’ intent to eat them? Will the zombies move to another feeding ground?

Or…will they learn how to swim in order to find additional food sources?

Sounds far fetched, I know. But, what if? Is it possible? Can zombies swim?


Let’s have a look at zombie buoyancy. If those maggot bags want to swim, they will have to learn how to float. If they moan then air is in their lungs, which means they can float. However, there’s this whole decomposition thing going on that may also prove fruitless for their effort if their body cavities lose pressure. And of course coordination between the limbs. They’d have to know how to perform one or more of a number of strokes if they’re intent is to swim to their destination, such as: front crawl, butterfly stroke, breaststroke, dog paddle, human stroke, survival travel stroke, breast feet first stroke, snorkeling, finswimming, inverted backstroke, inverted butterfly, back double trudgen, flutter back finning, feet first swimming, corkscrew swimming, underwater swimming, gliding, turtle stroke, sidestroke, combat sidestroke, and moth stroke.

Of course, the question remains: would zombies be able to even get their arms around their head in a full 360° turn? Have I mentioned about the zombie ocean predators? Crabs and lobsters love rotting meat. It’s their job to eat that stuff.

In all likelihood, zombies would walk to the shore and keep walking from the shore into the ocean until such time they’d walk themselves to a second death by either natural decomposition or ocean predator. That is, unless they fall into the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the world’s oceans.

Was the decision to have a command center in the middle of the ocean a good thing in the movie World War Z? Yes. Unless zombies know how to swim, it’s the safest place on earth.


What do you think of swimming zombies? Do you think zombies can swim?


Jack Flacco is an author and the founder of Looking to God Ministries, an organization dedicated to spreading the Word of God through outreach programs, literature and preaching.

23 thoughts on “Can Zombies Swim?

  1. If we are considering that zombies occur as a result of a virus, the most realistic path is that the virus causes some form of depraved maddening in the brain that causes increased aggression, disturbs the process of rationlizing fear and pain, but doesn’t interfere with learned ability to move and climb, etc. So it seems to me they can swim as well. Especially if they are similar to the WWZ or the I Am Legend zombies. Body function seems inherant in theses “creatures” so they should be able to flail their limbs around to stay on top of the water. I also wouldn’t discount the idea that animals can contract the virus as well. And, BTW, where are all the zombie babies and little kids in all these movies/books????

  2. I had to watch WWZ before I could comment on this post, can zombies swim? What I wonder is if they can drown? because if not they may mill about the ocean floor and at some point climb an Anchor chain. They were shown to be pretty decent climbers in WWZ…=)

    1. I have been dying to see this move!
      Can Zombies swim? I guess they probably should be able to, if for no other reason than to frighten us all just a bit more! Great writing as always jack, really looking forward to reading your book now xx

  3. Ahh, well if you have been following my serialized take on the subject (Day 42 DayZ of DiZeaZe) on, you would suspect that I might come out in favor of swimming zombies (Zs, in my case).

    And you would be right. Providing that zombies follow the laws of physics, their ability to swim is only a function of the level of higher brain damage. Although I can enjoy a traditional story of dead/undead, undying, rotting zombies, I can’t write one. Muscle tissue stops functioning once it necrotizes.

    So, yes zombies can swim or can learn to swim or else fear the water. Since my zombies can drown (even if it takes longer) walking along the bottom is not an option. I have yet to write a swimming scene, but it does appeal to me. I have already written a scene with my Zs running along the beach (cue up “Chariots of Fire”).

  4. My guess is they are not able to swim. They can barely walk, always dragging a leg so I’m guessing they wouldn’t be able to kick their legs to swim. That’s my guess. ~Gina

  5. Here’s a question: At what ocean depth would an underwater zombie have to be before it imploded? Your above reference to the Mariana Trench made me think that this could be one way to get rid of a pack of zombies: lure them over the shelf and watch them drift helplessly downwards, soon to be subjected to about 1000 times the pressure that occurs at sea level. Surely there wouldn’t be much left of them after that 😐

  6. its a very interesting question, I would think, no, like you say it would take far to much in the way of motor skills for the zombies to be able to swim. But chances of them walking into the ocean is very high. But then a ship in the middle of the ocean would be to far for them to use any sensors to detect, They rely of sight and smell and if the survivors are out in the ocean zombies would not be able to detect them.
    Still a bit concerned about zombie sharks though, not a pleasant thought.

  7. I love this post and your question! I have no earthly (or other earthly) idea, but it is something to think about and dare I say, one more thing to worry about. That is why I thought then next shark movie should be “Sharkombie” which might address this question to some extent.

  8. If I really stretched it, I could be made to believe that a few zombies may be able to swim on instinct IF the original live human was a swimmer. When I watch zombie movies, I always wonder if the bodies maintains a memory of the person it used to be. For example, a zombie who had been a mother may feel compelled by instinct to feed children zombies. Perhaps muscle memory could result in a select few swimming in the same way. Even if they swam, I would think they would be eaten to nothing by sea creatures or rot away.

    I, personally, don’t think zombies would try to swim over large bodies of water at all. I don’t think they would be able to smell humans who were far enough out. The whole idea of zombies meeting a second death in water brings up another question.

    Are zombies eternal, or are they literally walking, rotting flesh which will eventually rot away? Is there something preventing the brain from rotting away, and even if there is, the rest of the body will surely disintegrate into nothing, leaving only a skull and a brain. Unless the brain is rotting too.

    Great thought-provoking post!

  9. Assuming the zombie virus is species-specific to humans (because in other zombie movies you don’t see zombie beast predators, and you know they would have encountered a zombie bear in the woods in “The Walking Dead” by now, or zombie dogs in “Night of the Living Dead”, or rage zombie cats in “28 Days Later”, and so on, and so on…) then I would have to agree with the “nay” voters. Buoyancy would be a problem for sure (because why would they float?), followed by their decomposing bodies abilities to withstand the forces at work underwater, like tides and water pressure. I’d bet money that if they were to walk into the ocean, if they could get past a pounding surf it would just be a matter of time before geology tore them to pieces. And then the crabs would have a feast. Wait a second…I see a story in this… 🙂

  10. I suppose they could always walk the ocean bottom like the undead pirates in the first Disney Caribbean movie, but then that brings forward the issue of reaching the ship on the surface of the water and of even knowing the ship was there, depending on the ocean depth. This is an interesting question…makes you wonder.

  11. Excellent piece of writing, and quite a good question, there are a lot of factors to be considered though (being a Zombie “fanatic”, I’ve thought about these things quite a lot), for example, let’s say they walk into the water and keep walking until something happens and they “die”, a shark (or any other animal) eats their flesh, and as it is contaminated they might get infected with the “Z Virus”; therefore, the Z virus might infect the aquatic animals, rendering the solution of a HQ Facility in the water useless…

    I know…I over-think stuff, but it is a possibility, isn’t it?

  12. This undoubtedly became the best zombie film i’ve ever watched. I’ll explain why in a review on my blog. About swimming, I think they cannot. Because swimming requires careful movement of hands and feet (not saying that walking doesn’t, but that’s natural). Also, no zombie film ever showed zombies swimming. But I wouldn’t bring logic here because those zombies “spilling over the top of the wall” in Jerusalem is a bit too much.

    But then again, it’s just a movie. 🙂

  13. I’ve wondered this a few times and came to the same conclusion. Though, it brings up another question in my mind. Would the ocean predators be zombified by eating the zombies? Since many zombies have open wounds with blood, I would guess a shark would come into play too. So, would you get zombie sharks? I’m sure it’s only a matter of weeks before SyFy does this movie.

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