Rockall

I first heard of Rockall during a trip to the Western Isles in December 2000 when I picked up a book on Rockall in a second hand book shop, looked at it, and thought “interesting, another random location that I need to get out to and see at some point”.

Rockall is a very small island lying approximately 300 km (186 miles) west of St Kilda. The summit is about 18m above sea level, having been officially 19.2m prior to the summit being removed in 1971. Rockall is the core of an eroded volcano that erupted around 55 million years ago. The location was confirmed in 1967 as at 57°35′50″N, 13°41′13″W (Ordnance Survey, British Grid MD 96390 16624).

In 1972, the Isle of Rockall Act was passed, which made Rockall officially part of the District of Harris, Inverness-shire, Scotland. This represented the last territorial expansion of the British Empire.

It is a very difficult island to land on and it is expensive to charter boats to get out there. Only a small number of people have ever landed on Rockall and more people have walked on the surface of the moon than have slept overnight on Rockall.

During 2012, I heard that Nick Hancock was planning to go out to Rockall to set a solo occupation record.

The solo record is currently held by the former SAS soldier Tom McClean who lived on Rockall in a wooden shelter bolted to the rock on Hall’s Ledge, thereby cementing the UK’s claim to the island from 26th May 1985 until 4th July 1985, thereby also setting the record for the longest solo occupation at 40 days.

Following this, on 10th June 1997 three members of Greenpeace were landed by helicopter. They stayed in a solar powered capsule for 42 days, setting a new longest occupation record. Greenpeace stated that with this new record they were claiming Rockall as ‘Waveland’. This did not create the political issues it might as the British Government responded that “Rockall is British territory. It is part of Scotland and anyone is free to go there and can stay as long as they please.”

Nick Hancock hopes to stay on Rockall for 60 days, to set a new solo occupation record and to raise money for the Help for Heroes charity.

I contacted Nick and was able to grab the opportunity of getting on a boat out to Rockall to see this isolated peak of rock for myself. He was heading out for a recee expedition at the end of May 2012 / early June 2012.

As it turns out, the expedition coincided with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebration weekend. There was only a very short weather and swell forecase window of opportunity to get out to Rockall in conditions that might potentially be favourable for making a landing on the rock. It took 12 hours in a motorboat, the Orca III, to get out to Rockall.

Nick managed to land on Rockall and the expedition proved to be a very useful learning opportunity for planning the logistics and transfer of supplies / equipment onto Rockall when funding is secured for a future expedition (hopefully in summer 2013). I hope to go back out to Rockall and get to the top of it at some point in the future. For further information on Nick’s future expedition plans, please see www.rockallsolo.com.

Nick sent the first ever Twitter message and first ever Facebook page update from Rockall using my satellite phone, testing the ability of modern communications to the limit. His message was “Happy jubilee, your majesty”. This same technology will be further tested in Ecuador and then used on Everest for updating this website.

Media and online coverage:

Rockall as seen from the Orca III vessel on 1st June 2012 – YouTube

Media coverage of Nick’s landing on Rockall on 1st June 2012 – YouTube (as shown on BBC Reporting Scotland)

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