(Just in case you didn't see my Twitter link to my blog on The Guardian's website yesterday, they very kindly published the blog for twenty days in their 'Scotland Blog' section online. I've repeated here for those who missed it.)
Twenty days I've now been out here on Rockall, on my own. It's an important milestone for me psychologically for a number of reasons: its one third of the way through this sixty day challenge, but perhaps of more immediate importance, it marks the half way point to the solo occupation record of forty days, set my Tom McClean in 1985, almost thirty years ago. Although this goal, and that of the group record at forty two days, were always part of the reason for coming here, they have now assumed a far greater role in me being able to break this 'occupation' up into reasonable and handle-able chunks of time.
Other markers, some more minor but perhaps no less psychologically important, have come and gone: the first change of underwear, the first Calor LP Gas canister to be finished, the first twenty five litre jerry can of water to be emptied; and others have yet to arrive: the half way point for the expedition at thirty days, the last twenty days, the last ten, the arrival of the Kilda Cruises boat to take me back to civilisation; in what is essentially becoming a mental exercise in time management.
There have been some definite highs already, and thankfully no significant lows. The only worries I've had so far have been relatively minor: an infected cut on my finger, sustained during the landing, which has cleared up; constructing the wind turbine on my own in a fairly exposed and precarious position on top of Rockall; and the first couple of times it stopped through lack of wind (which didn't last!). The highs have been things like having the time to watch and enjoy shearwaters gliding centimetres above the waves, wondering how they manage not to hit them, and realising yesterday that there are actually two minke whales here, not just one, and watching them hunt, cruise around and blowing at the surface.
Time has definitely slowed, or sped up depending on how you look at it, and I'm definitely into a routine now: I don't get up before nine in the morning, as it eats into the time I have here; ablutions and breakfast now take about an hour; I tend to read or write my blog in the morning and watch what's happening outside the RockPod, be that trawlers passing by or the wildlife doing something entertaining; lunch is around two in the afternoon; and then, dependant on the weather forecast, I'll usually do whatever tasks I've set for myself outside the pod for the day. Getting to sleep in the evenings has been tricky, partially because its light so late here at this time of year, and probably more importantly, I'm not mentally tired so my mind has been racing with plans and ideas of things to do whilst I'm here, which keeps me awake.
Early on, these afternoon tasks were larger and more time consuming than they are now, securing the RockPod to Rockall or setting up the Ampair wind turbine, for example. Now it tends to be housekeeping: bringing rations into the pod, taking rubbish out to the kit barrels, provided by Smith's of Dean Drums, and measuring and recording as much about this place as I can whilst I'm here through a photographic record and also by measuring, drawing and mapping key features such as the derelict light housing on the summit, the summit itself, fixings left in the rock by previous expeditions, and the wildlife.
I've still some tasks to start, as I'm trying to spread things out as much as possible, so I will have things to keep me entertained towards the end of the expedition. These include Italian lessons, which I finally started yesterday, a number of the scientific research projects I've been asked to complete, and I've only picked up the harmonica twice, so I really need to get into that. I am, however, really enjoying reading some of the e-books on my Ergo laptop, which I never seem to have time to do at home. Although I had grand ideas of reading 'War and Peace' or some of the classics, so far it's been autobiographies such as 'Mr. Nice' and currently Ice-T's book.
The weather has been good to me too, so far. I've not seen any synoptic charts, but it has been very stable out here, with a constant temperature of thirteen to fourteen degrees centigrade, winds averaging ten to fifteen miles per hour, and very little rain. There have been hotter days with no wind, when I've had to shelter in the shade of the RockPod with the hatches and vent open to get some breeze. Similarly, there have been gusts of up to thirty miles per hour and rain, but the rain has never lasted more than half an hour and the winds soon die down. The RockPod is generally around eighteen to twenty degrees inside, even with the hatches open, it being heated by my body heat, my electronic equipment, and the odd occasion when my wind turbine charge controller has dumped heat. The internal temperature is also stable, I suspect, because of the amount of drinking water in the containers inside acting as a heat sink.
Mentally, I'm in a good place too, and I'm looking forward to the next twenty days: breaking the two occupation records and the half way point of the expedition; and then the run into heading home. I think my mental state has been greatly helped by modern technology and Inmarsat satellite communications, which have enabled me to not only Tweet (@RockallNick) and post my blogs, which give me something to write, but more importantly for me mentally, has allowed me to speak to and see family and friends via Skype. Tom McClean, when he was here, only had a VHF radio which would make this a very different experience all together.
Twitter: @RockallNick #RockallSolo
Sponsor Nick in aid of Help for Heroes at www.justgiving.com/rockallsolo
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Tel: 0845 860 2411