Beneath a bright moon, Howlett walked toward the sea and wandered along
the beach. The tide was out, leaving ripples and tiny pools of water on the
sand. Hoping to walk for hours, Howlett continued. He had scarcely gone a
few steps when he felt himself sinking into the soft sand. Stretching out
his arms for balance, he tried to jump away but instead he sank deeper. In a
matter of seconds, Howlett was up to his knees in a soft pudding. Quicksand!
The realization stunned him. The swirling currents of the river sometimes
dig out hollows which are then filled with the porridge-like sediment. Only
an expert eye can detect them. Howlett thought to himself, My God, I'm
being buried alive.
Howlett continued to sink until the sand had reached his waist. Howlett
remembered that it was low tide when he came to the beach. That gave him
another nine or ten hours before the tide returned. He had a chance after
all! He began to scoop away the sand around his waist. But no matter how
fast he dug, the sand flowed back into place. Soon his fingers were numb
with the digging while his legs ached with cramps.
Meanwhile, at the first break of daylight, Tony Gardner, 54, got up to
check his sheep. Suddenly he heard something. It sounded as if somebody was
calling for help. After informing his wife, he dialed for the police. Within
minutes, Constable Ian Nickson arrived, and together with the Gardners set
off toward the cries. They found Howlett. Nickson radioed the headquarters
and then, after gripping Howlett below the armpits, the two men struggled to
lift him out of the quicksand. However, Howlett's body did not budge.
Nickson radioed for reinforcements.
Soon the deserted beach was filled with firefighters, paramedics and
other rescuers who arrived with air-bottles, ropes, ladders and other rescue
gear. It was 7.50 a.m. High tide was expected by 8.35 a.m. Realizing that
there was no time to lose, rescuers redoubled their efforts. Firefighters
blasted through the sand using a steel tube that was attached to an air
cylinder by a rubber hose. Instead of loosening the grip of the quicksand,
the jets of air only got rid of the water from the quicksand, thus making it
At the sight of the frothy water that was now sweeping in, Howlett saw
one of his rescuers, Sue Williamson begin her attack on the quicksand with
renewed vigor. Howlett's heart went out to the rescuers. The in-rushing
water reached his waist at a frightening rate. It was rising at the amazing
speed of two inches with every passing minute.
Auxiliary Coast Guard Officer, Tom Hayhurst, was next to arrive at the
scene with his team, hugging a coiled hose and pipes. Hayhurst's men began
setting up a high pressure water jet that would blast aside the mud. By now
the rescuers had to rescue each other as they themselves were sinking into
The swirling water was now almost reaching his chin. Howlett fought for
self-control. He bent his head back and upward. One of the paramedics beside
him pushed the nozzle of the power jet into the sand at the side of
Howlett's leg and soon it was pushing the sand aside.
Soon Howlett could move his toes. Within the next few seconds, his right
leg was pulled out by the firefighters. There was a cheer among the
rescuers. Eager hands grabbed Howlett and pulled.
Howlett screamed in pain. Finally, he was out. Howlett was carried to the
beach and laid on blankets. Just then, the incoming tide swept over the spot
where Howlett was just a few moments ago.
Begin your summary as follows: After walking a few minutes along the
beach, Howlett felt ...