Monday, 10 December 2012
Thursday, 8 November 2012
Monday, 29 October 2012
Tuesday, 25 September 2012
Wednesday, 8 August 2012
Thursday, 21 June 2012
Finally, we sighted Rockall at about 1430 hours from seven miles out, after a twelve hour cruise. It still look another half an hour to draw close, during which time I donned my Safequip dry suit and PFD and made sure that dry bags, flag poles, whisky casks, etc. were all in place for a swift transition to the tender and then onto the rock.
Once we were close enough, about 100 metres away, and after having motored around the rock to recce for landing spots in the swell, the RIB was lowered off the back of Orca 3 and I jumped aboard. My first attempt at landing was inauspicious, after pushing in as close as we could in the swell and picking a suitable landing point, I went to jump off the bow, only for the tender to drop away from me on the ebbing swell. With nothing to push off, I toppled head first into the drink, but my Safequip drysuit and PFD did their job and I quickly bobbed to the surface and was hauled back into the tender.
Angus Campbell decided we needed to bail out the boat, so we headed back to Orca 3, where everyone thought we'd given up. But no, a quick turnabout saw us motoring towards to Rockall again, and this time we had timed it perfectly. As we headed into the rock, the swell dropped us but then on the next rise we were sucked into the wall which gave me the opportunity to launch from the bow and scramble as fast as possible to a safe point above the swell line.
Having caught my breath, and constantly reminding myself to take care in choosing good foot and hand holds, I inched across and up the rock wall towards the top. The holds varied between bomb-proof and slim, but the coarseness of the rock provided decent grip, and I made good progress. After what seemed like half an hour, but in reality was probably ten minutes, of climbing I was there, on the flat platform that marks the summit; just me, a few birds and the shell of the light beacon placed there in 1972 after the summit had been removed the previous year by the Royal Engineers.
Angus decided that the best alterative method was to try to use a rocket launcher to get a new line to me. He had , I later found out, never used one of these before! Angus's aim proved true and I had to duck out of the way as the fiery projectile came hurtling rapidly towards my head! It’s something that will stick with me for a while: what appeared from my angle to be a fire ball roaring towards my face; I could see the headline “Adventurer shot off Rockall”.
The most westerly Scottish distillery, Abhainn Dearg in Lewis, had given me a cask to take to the summit. At only 15kg, on dry land this seemed a simple request, however out in the North Atlantic it was not. I could not pull the barrel out of the swell zone, and having got the keg as high as I could, it was at least touching Rockall, I tied off the line so as not to lose it. Within minutes the line snapped with the tail pinging past my head and the cask floated away to sea. Luckily it was spotted by the tender who quickly retrieved the barrel and got it back on board.
All that remained on Rockall was me. I down-climbed the route that I had taken up, and in some respects this was much easier than the climb up. I took a minor detour and had to back track, but otherwise it went well and I made it to the surf line. Taking a moment to decide which direction to jump, the decision was made for me! In one last act of dominance, a wave came from the side and slapped me off the face of Rockall. I hit the water hard, but again my equipment did its job and I swam as quickly as I could to get out of the surf and rejoin the tender.
We had to move quickly as the weather was turning, which was why I hadn't stayed on the rock overnight. Everything, including the tender, was pulled aboard and lashed down and we head east towards St. Kilda. I managed to get eight or nine hours of sleep on the journey back, and awoke to a ghost ship in Village Bay; everyone else on board was asleep. There had been much sea sickness overnight as it was a rough crossing which I had fortunately missed. Angus awoke, and proclaimed that he wasn't going back out to Rockall for a very long time!
Saturday, 2 June 2012
We finally sighted Rockall at about 1430 hours from about 9 miles out, but it still look another half an hour to draw closer, during which time Bob, Nick, Pete (crew) and I were donning dry suits and making sure that all the gear was all in the tender.
Once we were close enough, the RIB was lowered off the back of Orca3 and we jumped aboard. My first attempt at landing was inauspicious, after pushing in as close as we could in the swell and picking a suitable landing point, I went to jump off the bow, only for the tender to drop away from me. With nothing to push off, I toppled head first into the drink, but my brilliant www.Safequip.co.uk dry suit and PFD did their job and I quickly bobbed to the surface and kicked/was hauled back into the RIB.
Angus C decided we needed to bail out so we heading back to Orca3, where everyone thought we'd given up. But no! A quick turnabout saw us motoring back to Rockall and this time in was perfect timing as we headed straight into the rock, the swell dropped us but then on the next rise we were sucked into the wall which gave me the opportunity to launch and scramble as fast as possible to a safe point above the swell line.
After what seemed like ten minutes I was there, on the flat platform that marks the summit, just me, a few birds and the shell of the light beacon.
One of my objectives was to raise a flag in honour of the Queen as it was her jubilee weekend. Unfortunately, whilst hauling the flag pole up to the ledge a section was bent which meant that the pole could no be put together. In addition, the bag holding the poles and flags was damaged and the flags were lost to the sea.
Photos taken, and memories made, it was time to return to the boat. I'd been on Rockall for about an hour. I down climbed the route that I had taken up.
Once back on Orca 3, there was lots of congratulating and hand shaking before I took a seat and a moment to take in what I had achieved. Very few people have seen Rockall let alone set foot on it, and many of those didn't make it to the top. To have visited, landed and summited, albeit briefly was a great feeling.
We had to move quickly as the weather was turning, which was why I hadn't stayed on the rock overnight. Everything, including the tender, was pulled aboard and lashed down and we head East towards St.Kilda.
I'd like to thank everyone who made this possible: The Anguses for their expert boat and tender skills, Pete for hauling me back in the boat twice, Bob for sacrificing his own landing to make sure mine was a success, Pennie, Nick and Mike for covering the expedition and landing for the BBC and The Scottish Sun.
Nick Hancock FRGS
The Rockall Jubilee Expedition 2012
Thursday, 31 May 2012
Next was sorting kit a final time and breakfast. Off I went down to the jetty, all positive and raring to go. Had a coffee from the butty van whilst also doing a phone interview for Ian McIver's blog.
Just as the BBC turned up from Stornoway, the Anguses (both the skipper and the relief skipper are called Angus) started to look unhappy. I recorded an interview for BBC Alba with the boat Orca 3 in the background, which I am reliably informed went out at 8pm tonight, and once finished Angus C (as opposed to Angus S) took me aside to say that there was oil in the engine coolant water - not a good thing.
After much humming and hawing a call was made to the engine manufacturer, who apparently knew what the issue was straight away as it has happened a couple of times before! Now bearing in mind that Orca 3 is about 1 month old, you'd have thought they'd have fixed the issue before launch.
Anyway, a part has been sent from Glasgow to Uig on Skye, and the Angii have taken the boat over on one engine. It should take a couple of hours to fix and then an hour back here on two engines. Hopefully that means that we still get away tonight, and missing the slight detour to St Kilda, going direct to Rockall we should still be there within a few hours of our original planned arrival time.
This has all meant yet more waiting around on Harris. Myself, Pennie from the Beeb, Nick and Mike from The Sun, and Bob from www.rp-alba.com headed back to North Harris to see Golden Eagles. Yet again disappointment, no eagles after half an hour's walk into the hide. Its a good job that the visitors' book isn't at the start of the walk as no-one would go out there; it appears that there's never any eagles to be seen.
Back a Leverburgh, there's no Orca 3, which for once is a good thing. Dinner at The Anchorage (again) and then to the bunkhouse to hang about and wait some more. After a few hours sleep, still no further news, so now its off to bed in case of an early wake up call.
Watch this space...
Nick Hancock FRGS
The Rockall Jubilee Expedition 2012
Wednesday, 30 May 2012
I managed to get a decent night's sleep at Lickisto, catching up on the lack of sleep on the previous night.
A nice slow morning followed, heading north via a descent cup of coffee in Tarbert, and popped into Abhainn Dearg to see Marko Tayburn to thank him for the cask and to pick up some Dutch courage. I also managed to passed on the expedition details to a whisky club who were visiting from Kent, hopefully they'll sponsor me for H4H.
I then headed to Calanais to see the standing stones, this time in the sun (it was raining horizontally when the wife and I were here last year), and randomly got a message from The Scottish Sun that they needed urgent pictures for tomorrow's paper. So there I was in front of an ancient monument wrapped in several different flags, and in various provocative poses!
Heading back south, I popped in to see my friend Ann's parents at Luskentyre, and having passed the only policeman heading north on my way south, I said yes to a pint and sat putting the world to rights with an awesome view over the sands to Taransay.
Finally making it back to Leverburgh and the Am Bothan bunkhouse, I got reception on the phone and a whole pile of emails and texts. It seems that things have snow-balled, and if you listen to BBC Radio Scotland around 0830 tomorrow I'll be giving a live interview. It'll be my first live one, so watch out for the stumbling and mumbling.
Rumour has it we'll be departing for St Kilda at midday, prior to which I'll also be giving an interview for BBC news which I assume will also be shown on the TV tomorrow. We'll then spend some time at the archipelago before heading out to Rockall overnight, arriving first thing Friday morning.
And then the fun begins...
Nick Hancock FRGS
The Rockall Jubilee Expedition 2012
I arrived in Uig to light skies and a cloud of midges. Quietly pitched my tent to save disturbing the other campers, and got a fitful night's sleep as I was still wired on Red Bull from the drive (other energy drinks are available).
Rose early this morning to get in the shower before the crowds, went for a stroll around Uig, which took 5 minutes, so did that a couple of times, and generally hung out until the ferry came.
We departed early and I tucked into a full breakfast whilst trying to hide at a corner table as I was concurrently pinching power for my phone which had died over night.
I was met off the ferry at Tarbert by Ian from www.abhainndearg.co.uk who have kindly provided me with a cask to take to and hopefully up Rockall. It will be filled on my return, aged, then auctioned off in support of Help for Heroes.
Then I've really spent the day doing a few touristy things, killing time until departure, which will probably be Thursday now, and just driving about being amazed yet again at how stunning the Outer Hebrides are; everyone should come here at least once, and I know the weather's not often this great, but I know from experience that it's stunning in the rain too!
This evening I headed down to Leverburgh to meet up with a couple of the guys who are heading out to Rockall to report on the expedition for The Sun and Bob from www.rp-alba.com. I had a great cod and chips and a pint of something dark, and now am back at my tent in Lickisto to catch up on some sleep although its still broad day light at 2230hrs!
Nick Hancock FRGS
The Rockall Jubilee Expedition 2012
Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Over the past week or so final bits of equipment have been arriving, including a brilliant dry suit from Safequip who have only become involved in the last month, but have been more than genereous with their help, advice and more importantly supplies of gear. This has finally allowed me to try on all my 'assault' equipment at once to check that it is all compatable and that I can use and reach everything that I may need during the landing attempt.
I'm now at the point where I'm having a massive kit explosion all over the living room at home, which is annoying my wife but the dog seems to like it! Having packed once, I'm sure I'll be repacking several times over the next few days in order to double check that my kit is in the the correct bags and in the right order that I'm going to need it.
During the expedition, I will be Tweeting regularly, thanks to RP Alba Ltd, which will feed through to this Blog, the Facebook page and the expedition website, where you will also be able to click through to a chart showing the current position of Orca III.
There's also still time to sponsor me for this trip in support of Help for Heroes if you have some spare cash.
Thursday, 10 May 2012
I met with Mark Beaumont this week at BBC Radio Scotland to have a chat about the expedition and to get some advice about obtaining funding and coping with isolation. Our conversation was recorded and will form part of a programme on the expedition to be broadcast at 4pm on Monday 4th June.
Also, I'm really please to have received a Rescue Pro PFD (Personal Flotation Device) today from www.safequip.co.uk . They threw in lots of extra safety features, which my wife is very pleased about (as am I)! Its amazingly buoyant yet really comfortable and gives an uninhibited range of movement which makes the jacket ideal for landing and climbing up Rockall. Thanks to team at Safequip for all their help.
Wednesday, 25 April 2012
Wednesday, 18 April 2012
Sunday, 15 April 2012
Its been a Rockall full weekend so far: yesterday I went to the GMDX annual conference in Stirling and saw a great film by the Belgians who landed on Rockall last September. They had a really hard time of it, but it was a reminder, if I needed it, that apart from the fact that you don't go to Rockall that late in the year, the landing is totally weather dependant and could in fact be the hardest part of the whole the expedition.
Food for thought.
Monday, 2 April 2012
Monday, 19 March 2012
Thursday, 15 March 2012
The result is that the total amount I am now seeking has been dramatically reduced, and along with a couple of recent pledges of funding, means that my target has dropped from c.£20,000 to c.£15,000 in a couple of months.
The date has been set for the expedition, towards the end of May this year. However, I am still urgently seeking funding to pay for (mostly) the boat charter and ancillery kit and equipment.
Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Working backwards; I was contacted today by a researcher at STV with a view to putting a programme together centred around the exepedition. Its very early days, as these things need to be pitched for, but this shows increasing media interest in the challenge, and hence opportunities for potential sponsors to have their support recognised.
Yesterday I was offered, and accepted, support from Telespazio VEGA UK Ltd which will include satellite communications, training and airtime. In addition to this being one of the last major items on my list to sort out, it also means an additional cost reduction to the expedition.
Furthermore, I've also recently had a pledge of financial support for part of my boat charter costs confirmed. This, along with the agreement with Telespazio VEGA UK Ltd, means that the expedition costs have been reduced yet further.
Now if I can get my memory stick with the spreadsheet on to work (it crashed last night!) I can update the costings and the outstanding funding requirements on the website in order to attract further financial support.
Wednesday, 15 February 2012
The duration of my visit/stay is still to be confirmed as its still very dependant on funding. Either way, I will be going in a few months time and will either land and conduct a recce for a future expedition, or land and stay for 60 days if the weather allows.
Now, in addition to trying to raise the funds I need, its time to start training. So back to climbing, swimming and running as its going to be tough no matter what the weather decides to do, especially after the long cruise out from the Outer Hebrides on a probable rough sea.
Thursday, 9 February 2012
Sunday, 5 February 2012
The RockPod isn't finished yet, I still have to finish the insulation, fit the flooring and line it, but I'm not far off. If anyone reading this has some fibre glass, gelcoat or loads of cash going spare, please get in touch.
Also, please note all the shiny space for sponsors logos; there is a new section on the expedition website which outlines the benefits of supporting the expedition to potential funders.