Today should have been a bigger milestone than it actually is due to the events of this week. I should have been celebrating the half way mark to the sixty days I had originally planned to be on Rockall for. Instead I've been here a month and am now counting down the days until I go home.
The storm that hit on Tuesday night was the worst experience of my life, ever. I have never been so scared, not helped by the worst of the weather coming in the hours of darkness so I could neither see nor brace myself for impacts by spray and waves. All evening and into the night the sea state slowly got worse and the wind strength grew to over gale force, until at around 0300hrs the pod was hit hard by a wave, fifteen metres above sea level. We were shunted around a foot but fortunately quickly returned to our original position. I was sure that if I was hit with another wave like that or bigger, that would be me washed off Rockall. Fortunately that was the biggest. At least part of the reason that I was so badly affected is that Hall's Ledge is South facing, and all the waves and wind were coming at me from the South. Had they been from the North, or even round to the North West or East I would have been at least partly sheltered, but in fact had to take the full brunt of the storm head on.
Frankly, after that, my nerves were wrecked for the rest of the night and I'm still not fully recovered. Even today I'm getting involuntarily apprehensive at slightly bigger waves crashing below me, which before the storm I would not have been bothered about. I lost four barrels of kit, which contained my buoyancy aid and quite a lot of my remaining rations, although fortunately I had brought as much food as I could fit into the pod before the storm. A quick inspection on Wednesday morning revealed slack in the ratchet straps at the East end of the pod, confirming that it had not returned fully to its original position, but no obvious damage, except for the lost kit. The barrels had all been tethered to the rock, the pod or both. The tethers hadn't failed, but the handles on the barrels had been torn off and left forlornly swinging on the leashes.
It was obvious that I would not now be able to complete my goal of sixty days here, but I though I still had enough food to reach the records. I then spent much of the day on the Inmarsat IsatPhone2 speaking to the Coastguard, Kilda Cruises, Iain MacIver and my wife trying to discover what my options were. Kilda Cruises are obviously a commercial charter company and so have a full diary. Fortunately two extra boats are becoming available, the weather seems to be generally improving, and so we have agreed that I will continue to go for the occupation records but will come off Rockall as soon after that as the weather allows, and certainly before I run out of food.
I am very grateful to Kilda Cruises and their team for the effort they have gone to in order to help me out at such short notice. I should also mention that LPG Exceptional Energy and Calor offered to try and get more food out to me here. I declined as the cost would be significant, I'd rather money was donated to Help for Heroes, and a boat coming to drop off food may be using the best weather window I have to get off here safely. I would also like to thank Inmarsat and Wireless Innovation, as without the excellent and reliable communications they have provide me with, I may have had no option but to pull the plug on the expedition and call out the Coastguard.
This morning, I managed to get out of the pod for a good period of time, before it started to rain again, and whilst properly tidying up the remaining barrels and ropes, confirmed that I have enough food left to eek out to between forty five and fifty days. This is good news as it gives me a bit of a buffer should the weather not be great around the time of the records. I've spent the remainder of the day reading, listening to music and trying to ignore the wind and waves outside. I keep forgetting to say that the music on my iPod includes the albums 'The Band from Rockall' by Callum and Rory MacDonald and 'Rockall' by The House Band; very apt I think. The forecast is not perfect but is steadily improving into next week, and current indications are that it will remain good for the remainder of my time here, for which I am very grateful. My motivation is now to achieve the two records in ten and twelve days respectively, and then get home safely.
Twitter: @RockallNick #RockallSolo
Sponsor Nick in aid of Help for Heroes at www.justgiving.com/rockallsolo
Please forward all Press and Media enquiries regarding the expedition to Iain MacIver
Tel: 0845 860 2411