Undaunted adventurer Nick Hancock has landed on the tiny North Atlantic speck of Rockall and will now attempt one of the most daunting charity endurance challenges of recent times – a two month stay on the tiny rock.
In a bid sponsored by his employers, DM Hall, one of Scotland’s largest independent firms of Chartered Surveyors, the Edinburgh-based residential surveyor from Ratho, is planning to spend a gruelling 60 days on the storm-lashed rock, which measures just 25 metres wide and 22 metres long.
Only four people have ever spent more than a few hours on Rockall since the first recorded landing in 1811. To put this in perspective, more than 3500 people have stood on the summit of Everest since 1953 and 12 have landed on the moon since 1969.
The 39-year-old property specialist, who joined DM Hall in August 2011, first landed on the isolated rock in 2012. He returned in 2013, to attempt the record but was beaten back by unseasonal sea swells during the very tight weather window on the tiny island which, lying 186 miles west of St Kilda, is exposed to the full fury of the north Atlantic’s storms.
This time he is aiming to set two new records on Rockall, which is described as “desolate, despairing and awful” – the longest occupation in history; and the longest ever solo occupation. His aim is to raise £10,000 for the military charity Help for Heroes.
Allan Scott, partner in DM Hall Edinburgh, said: “Nick is taking on a very tough assignment, which will test his physical and mental limits, in aid of a very worthy cause and DM Hall is delighted to be able to offer both financial and moral support.”
Nick said: “DM Hall is being extremely flexible as an employer and has been very understanding about the time and commitment I need to bring to an enterprise of this scale. It is not just the financial support they are providing, it is the sense that everyone in the firm really wants me to succeed.”
Nick’s challenge started today, 5th June 2014. He had already undertaken a reconnaissance expedition to Rockall, “the most isolated speck of rock, surrounded by water, on the surface of the earth”, which separately raised more than £2,000 for Help for Heroes.
He made the journey out in a boat from Leverburgh on the Isle of Harris and transfer to Rockall in a rib – or rigid inflatable boat – from which he landed and then transferred all his stores and supplies.
Key to Nick’s survival will be a bright yellow home-made survival pod, the “RockPod”, which he fabricated from a plastic water bowser. It measures just over 8 feet and he has attached it to the rock with fixings normally used for shipping containers.
He is using anchor points drilled by Greenpeace activists when they occupied Rockall in protest at oil exploration in 1997 and the pod will sit on 11 feet by 4 feet Hall’s Ledge, named after the first person to set foot on the islet more than 200 years ago. It has to be securely fastened as waves frequently sweep over the entire island.
Nick said: “The isolation I will experience on Rockall means that it will probably be more a mental than a physical challenge for me. But as well as the preparations and maintenance needed for simple survival, I will have plenty of other tasks to keep me busy.
“I will be taking GPS survey data to pinpoint the exact position and orientation of the rock for the Ordnance Survey; I will be collecting invertebrates for the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow: and I will be taking rock and water samples for St Andrews University.”
There is nothing to eat or drink on Rockall, and no trees or bushes. Only lichens grow there and the island can be crowded with more than 20 species of sea birds. However, Nick hopes to supplement his diet by fishing from the rocks.
If you would like to find out more about Nick’s expedition, you can do so by visiting his website http://www.rockallsolo.com/ or you can support him at his Just Giving site http://www.justgiving.com/rockallsolo