Geoduck diver’s story unique, almost

  • Nov. 7, 2012 7:00 p.m.

In the annals of human history, there can be few with a story like Allan Hertel’s. He’s a 45 year old diver from Sooke, now working on the west coast of Haida Gwaii, harvesting geoducks. On Saturday, he was in Kano Inlet near Rennell Sound on the west coast, and got through the 7.7 shaker that evening with no problems. But on Sunday morning, he had an almost unique experience. He was about 40 feet underwater harvesting geoducks, just as the biggest aftershock, a magnitude 6.3 quake, rolled through. “Basically, it just sounded like the boat blew up. I could hear it and feel it at the same time,” Mr. Hertel told us by satellite phone from Englefield Bay, where his vessel is now working. Mr. Hertel is a diver with 25 years experience and figures he has spent about 10,000 hours underwater. Never in his experience has he felt anything like this.”On that same dive I felt smaller shakings,” he said, but”that big one definitely stopped me in my tracks. You could just feel it, the rumbling go right through you. It’s something, I could hear it just as much as I could feel it. It’s an audible sensation, not just a vibration”. At one point, he stuck his fingers and toes into the sand, and held his breath for a couple of seconds “just to get the sensation of what was going on”. “I tried to absorb the moment and get as much out of the thing as I could,” he said.He could see the geoducks retreating into the sand, the sand itself shifting, and little fish in the area scattering. Mr. Hertel says he wasn’t really scared, but called the experience unnerving. “Fearful no, but it is definitely unnerving, for sure it is unnerving,” he said. While Mr. Hertel’s experience is rare, it was not unique on Haida Gwaii last weekend. He is fishing with four other divers, and thinks all of them were underwater during that big aftershock as well.