Monday, 10 December 2012

Massive leaps forward!

Well, in the continuing theme of throwing mud at walls, it just goes to show that you should never give up (something that I might need to keep in mind whilst on Rockall!) In a somewhat random move, I 'Googled' people with the surname Rockall who might have a link with the expedition. As luck would have it, and following a letter to Paris, James Rockall, CEO of the WLPGA 'got' the expedition and could see the obvious links between their campaign 'LPG Exceptional Energy', which aims to promote the use of LPG in remote areas, and my need for a reliable and clean fuel source for cooking whilst on the rock. In addition, LPG Exceptional Energy have very kindly agreed to support the expedition financially as GOLD sponsors.
As GOLD sponsors LPG Exceptional Energy are able to have their logo on the RockPod survival shelter, to ensure maximum publicity for their brand. With their printers having let them down, a Belgian student was dispatched on a plane to Edinburgh with an envelope containing the logos, and arrived half way through the floatation testing at the Seagull Trust dock on the canal at Ratho!
He was, not surprisingly, somewhat bemused to arrive to an image of me swinging around on top of the RockPod, suspended from a crane over the canal. It was all necessary, as I was able to check that the RockPod floats, which it does, and it is surprisingly very stable (I avoided the temptation to see it if would self-right with me in it, much to the disappointment of my goading friend and glamorous assistant Dan!). I could also check that my design was strong enough to be lifted by a crane and was stable whilst being lifted, as it will have to be to get it off the boat. I'd like to thank Ronnie Rusack MBE for his permission and assistance with using the Seagull Trust's facilities.
Next 'Glamourous Dan' and I moved venue to the hidden, but publicly open crag behind the Edinburgh International Climbing Area (EICA), which happily is also in Ratho. There I met up with Fraser MacDonald and Stevie, both rope rescue instructors at the National Rope Rescue Centre in Edinburgh. These were the guys to teach me the specialist skills, over and above my existing climbing experience, required to allow me to winch up and lower the RockPod, which weighs around 150kg, over a cliff by myself.
The exercise was again very helpful, and demonstrated that I need to rethink/design the winching/lowering points on the RockPod to have specific ones for this purpose rather than using those fitted for tethering it to Rockall. I also need to have a fixed central point for the line to attach to, because, as seen above, the RockPod had a tendency to tilt to the side when it got caught on even the smallest feature. It was also a chance to use the Portable Winch for the first time, and it proved to be the perfect tool for the job, and easily lifted the RockPod back up the cliff. Glamorous @MountainDann spent most of the afternoon leaning over the edge of the cliff to take photos whilst I operated the winch and the lowering mechanism. So thanks to Dan for all his help!
All this testing and activity led to a great blog today on The Guardian's website by Severin Carrell, which has already yielded some more followers on Twitter, publicity for sponsors, and hopefully will attract others to get involved with the final portion of funding I need to get this expedition off the ground - thanks to LPG Exceptional Energy I'm now two thirds of the way there! One way you can help is to click this link to the Kukri Adventure Scholarship, 'like' the page and vote for my video.
The final thing to say is that I agreed provisional departure (and retrieval) dates today with Angus at Kilda Cruises...

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Nothing ever goes quite to plan!

I had intended to update my blog last Sunday with a (hoped for) tonne of good news. As it happened, things didn't go quite to plan, and after a day off work with bad guts, it is only today that I'm not heading to bed early and I get the chance to update the blog.
So, I had hoped that by the end of last week I would have agreed with a van hire company, whom I am still in discussions with, that they would be willing to grant me the use of one of their vans to take the RockPod shelter down to Foamspray to get it insulated, to move the shelter around during the testing weekend (date still to be confirmed - see below), and to take the RockPod and my kit to Harris at the start of the expedition, by CalMac ferry, and back home again at the end of expedition. However, the van hire company are still to make a decision.
Secondly, I had hired another van, just in case I had not agreed the use of a vehicle by last weekend, to go to Foamspray. Unfortunately, due to a mix up with the booking, only a normal sized 'transit' type van was available. After several attempts to get the pod to fit, at a variety of angles, with a change of van manufacturer, and with the help of my neighbour Ben, I had to concede that I really did need the high-top I had booked. A very apologetic phone call to Foamspray followed, and I will not now be able to get the RockPod insulated until early in the New Year.
However, the good, sorry, great news is that I am pleased to announce a new financial sponsor. Leven Brown of Ocean Row Events has very kindly pledged to contribute towards the expedition costs. This not only helps with the continuing quest of fund raising, but is also a great personal morale boost when I was at a low mental ebb. It just goes to show that the old adage, that if you keep throwing mud at walls, some of it will stick, is true. I just have to keep that in mind.
In respect of the testing weekend, where I will check that the RockPod floats, and practice winching it up a cliff near home, with a Portable Winch. I have decided to go ahead with the testing, without it having been insulated, before Christmas, as I believe that the foam will only make the pod more buoyant, so if it floats anyway that will be fine, and the weight increase should not be that significant. If necessary, I can always carry out a second round of testing in the New Year. However, I can't set a date quite yet as I am also about to sell my flat, and have to keep all my free weekends free for moving, until I have a date for completion, which should hopefully be early next week!
Finally, I am in talks with a well know property company to come on board as a financial sponsors, potentially as Title Sponsor, so everyone please cross your fingers and toes for that...

Monday, 29 October 2012

Not quite begging, but not far off...

Chasing funding for my expedition has been an ongoing issue since the initial concept back in 2009. The original aim was to head out to Rockall in 2011 for the two hundredth anniversary. However, there was no money available so soon after the 'credit crunch'. Postponing, and aiming to go instead in 2012, pushing hard for funding had more success with a family friend pledging a quarter of the 2012 boat charter costs and, after emailing hundreds of companies, Petrostrat kindly pledged £500 toward my costs. Unfortunately, I was still well over ten thousand pounds short of the total I needed. I postponed again, thankfully my sponsors agreed to carry their pledges over to 2013, and I was able to self-fund a reconnaissance trip to Rockall in June this year.
On that trip, I used a new boat, Orca 3, owned and operated by Angus Campbell of Kilda Cruises and Atlantic Marine Services. I have been asked a number of times why I do not charter a cheaper, small yacht, with less fuel requirements and hence a lower cost. To me, the answer is simple: the success or failure of Rockall Solo will, to a greater or lesser extent, be decided by speed and weather. Although more expensive, a motorised vessel taking circa 12 hours to reach Rockall (as opposed to 16 hours plus on a sailing boat) allows me to fit my landing into a shorter weather window. Additionally, Orca 3 is much more manoeuvrable on site than a yacht would be, and importantly is much more stable, as she is a catamaran. Finally, her speed means that she can run ahead of the weather, as she did on our return from Rockall, should things turn bad, therefore ensuring as much as is possible the safety of her crew. I believe, therefore, that she is the perfect vessel for the job, and so the extra cost of fuel is justifiable. I just have to find a way of paying for it!
After my return from Rockall in the summer, I had to have a good hard think about the future of the expedition. I wanted to go back more than ever, but would I find the money? With an initial budget in 2010 of close to £30,000 for a 'domestic' expedition, things did not look good. However, with some judicious rethinking, replanning, and rebudgetting, I have managed to reduce this figure to just shy of £20,000 in 2012.
This is the bare bones headline figure for the expedition, and a high proportion of these costs is boat charter and fuel (an estimated, unfixed cost this far ahead of departure!). However, since my return, I have been looking at reducing costs further, and it is with this in mind that I started a new round of emails in the past couple of months, asking for further goods and services instead of cash, as this has been the most successful tactic so far (companies have products they will loan or donate in return for PR, and others can provide their services free of charge, at no huge cost to themselves). As a result, I am please to announce two new corporate sponsors have come forward in the past week:

CalMac Ferries Ltd provides passenger, vehicle and shipping services to the islands off the West Coast of Scotland and in the Clyde estuary. They sail to 24 destinations off Scotland’s west coast, through some of the most spectacular coastlines and landscapes in the UK, and have very kindly agreed to help with the transportation of me and my gear from Skye to Harris next year; a big cost saving.
Webster Power Products are one of the leading UK suppliers for power tools and machinery. Specialists in everything from petrol lawnmowers to cordless drills at Webster's they have 'the right tool for the right job'. From their fully stocked premises in central Scotland, 20 miles from Glasgow, they aim for a speedy delivery on their complete range of power tools, ground care equipment & site machinery. Today Webster's kindly agreed to provide the expedition with a suitable drill and fixings to enable me to ensure my safety and security on the hard granite of Rockall.
I am also hopeful that by the end of this week I will have agreed with a hire company the use of a van for several trips I will need to take with the RockPod survival shelter in the coming months. These include a run down to Yorkshire for the RockPod to be insulated by Foamspray Technology, a day's flotation testing and winching locally, and then for the trip out to Harris, and back again at the end of the expedition.
However, there is still a requirement for cold, hard cash. With this in mind, I'm aiming to enter a competition for expedition funding, which has just been launched, in the next couple of weeks, once a short film about my recce is finished.  I will need votes via Facebook, so watch thi space! I am also writing yet more letters and send more emails, but the professional expeditioners' advice is that the best source of funding is personal contacts, so if you know anyone or any companies who might be able to help, please point them towards the website: .

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Seeking funding...

Following the successful reconnaissance in June, and having sent the first Tweet from Rockall wishing Her Majesty The Queen a Happy Jubilee weekend, I received a letter last week from Balmoral congratulating me on reaching the summit of Rockall! 
Having completed the post expedition administration, and having launched a new format website at, which includes links to all the press, TV and radio coverage I received for the recce, I am now looking forward to heading back to Rockall next year. I am hoping to take advantage of the publicity I have gained from the recce expedition, and once the RockPod shelter is complete (hopefully in October), I will be conducting flotation and winching tests, which several national newspapers have said they want to report on. I have also recently secured the loan of a light weight petrol winch from The Portable Winch Company which will solve my lifting issues.      
The continuing hurdle is funding. Having now sent hundreds, if not thousands, of emails, including pledges of support, I am still over £10,000 short of the total of the £20,000 required to pay for the boat charters and equipment that I have not already secured. Being now in the third year of attempting to get the main expedition off the ground, I am really pushing hard and asking every contact I have if they will consider recommending to their contacts that they support the expedition. The aim is for the expedition to depart at the end of May 2013, which would allow for any donations to be split over two financial years. PR opportunities are available, and I'm happy to discuss specific requirements that sponsors may have.
Please let your contacts know...  

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Still moving forward, slowly...

Well its been just over two months since I landed on Rockall, and things, as usual, have been bubbling along in the background:

I am in the process of writing an expedition report for the landing in June, which I will eventually submit to the Royal Geographical Society, and will upload to the website once it's finished. I have also set up The Rockall Club ( as a resource website for Rockall information. The expedition report will be uploded there too. I also hope that it will become the official record of those who have landed on the remote rock; indeed some of those who have landed are in the proccess of writing content for various parts of the website so that we can make it as detailed and representative as possible.

I have also been moving forward with plans for returning to Rockall next year, and have been very lucky to find a company, Foamspray Technology (, who have agreed to insulate the RockPod for free when they are next in Scotland. In preparation, I have now applied two coats of primer to the internal plastic surface so that the foam will bond, as it will not to plastic.

In addition, having approached a number of suppliers and manufacturers, Fibrestar Drums ( have supplied the expedition with a number of 25 litre plastic jerry cans for the fresh water I will need to take to the rock. I am still, however, waiting to hear back from several manufacturers of HDPE drums, which I need to pack and protect my equipment.

The most recent development is a meeting I had with Leven Brown, the ocean rower, who, thanks to an introduction by Mark Beaumont, the cyclist, kindly agreed to sit down with me and discuss my plans so far, review my equipment list, boat choice, and double check my power requirements. I was very please that Leven was impressed with my research, decisions, and the recce expedition,and was only able to recommend that I add additional straps to the RockPod, just to make sure I'm not washed off Rockall!

So now, in addition to finishing the report at some point, I am thinking about financial sponsors again. I have a few emails out at the moment awaitig responses, but would welcome any suggestions or contacts at companies which may consider helping out. Happily, the financial sponsors I had lined up for this year have agreed to role their pledges of funding over to next year, but that still leaves me short of the total I need to pay for the boat charters and various pieces of equipment that I have been unable to negotiate for free.

Ever onwards...

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Jubilee Expedition Summary

The original aim of my expedition to Rockall, 250 miles off the Outer Hebrides in the North Atlantic, was to land and stay for 60 days, setting two new occupation records and in doing so, raise funds for Help for Heroes. Due to the economic climate resulting in a lack of funding, the main expedition was postponed in March this year. However, at the end of May, I set off on a reconnaissance mission, renamed The Rockall Jubilee Expedition as it co-incided with the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations. This is how I got on:

The expedition did not get off to an ideal start. At midday on Thursday 31st May we were loaded and ready to depart on Kilda Cruises’ new catamaran Orca 3, when final checks revealed oil in the engine cooling water. After several fretful phone calls, a rendezvous was arranged between the boat from Harris, the engineer from Inverness and the required spare part from Glasgow, in Uig on Skye. Fourteen hours of sleeping, eating and eagle watching passed slowly, before we finally got back on the boat and left Leverburgh for Rockall at 0230 on the Friday morning.

Fortunately, I awoke as we passed to the South of St Kilda and at 0600 I took a few pictures of the sunrise behind the archipelago. Angus Smith, the skipper, pointed out that from there on it was just blue skies and blue seas for at least another six hours, so I decided to head back to my berth! More sleep followed; on wakening, a hearty breakfast of bananas and bacon sandwiches awaited and seeing as sea sickness was absent I tucked in. Most of the rest of the day was then spent looking at the horizon, recording thoughts with the BBC and spotting various sea birds and the odd dolphin. There’s not much to look at after St. Kilda!
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.
I proceeded down to Hall's Ledge with the ring bolts that Greenpeace had left in 1997 making the climbing much easier. Once there and on reasonably level ground, I had time to take in my surroundings, rub down and read the various plaques that mark the history of successive landings and take a few photos. The next job was to haul my gear up the vertical east face of Rockall. This proved much harder than I had imagined due to the swell sucking the bags down, friction from the coarse rock and the slipperiness imparted to the rope by the guano.
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”.

I retrieved the line and started to haul. Pulling the first pack about half way up the steep East face, it quickly became obvious that the bag was going no higher due to this rope also slipping through my hands. Angus decided that he should try and pull it up with the tender. He proceeded around to the other side of the rock, to the point where I had climbed up, and I threw down the line. The system worked well, except for the inability to communicate swiftly enough to get him to stop pulling once the bag was aloft. I was jerked to the ground whilst attempting to hold onto the pack and badly jarred my knee. Anyway the pack was up.
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.
Photos taken, and memories made, I was requested to return to Orca 3 as the weather was turning for the worse earlier than forecast. I'd been on Rockall for an hour, but with all the action it felt like ten minutes. I was left with one drysack and the remains of the flag pole to retrieve, but very little in the way of ropes. Deciding to tie my static abseiling line to the remains of the haul line, I lowered the poles and bag over the edge to the waiting tender. These got caught on the jagged rock below so I retrieved them and decided with much shouting to the tender that the best option was to throw down the line for them to retrieve followed by the bag and the poles would follow. Half of the plan worked! In being launched over the side, the poles broke free and a sacrifice was made to the sea gods. Fortunately the bag sailed high and wide, despite its weight, and made it to the ocean. Unsurprisingly the climbing rope sank and so the tender had to come close in to the rock to retrieve the line. The bag and its contents were hauled aboard. Surprisingly, a bottle of whisky within had remarkably remained intact despite all the action!
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.
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 who have landed didn't make it to the top. To have visited, landed and summited, albeit briefly, was a fantastic feeling. Raising money for Help for Heroes in the process added to the feeling of success.
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!

The expedition and landing would not have been possible without the help of the following people: Angus Campbell, Angus Smith, Pete, Nick, Mike, Pennie, Bob and Torquil.


Saturday, 2 June 2012

Rockall landing

We finally got on the boat and left for Rockall at 0230 Friday morning.

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 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

Disappointed, yet positive...

So, day three in Harris and I was all set to depart this morning for Rockall. I started the day with a live interview for Good Morning Scotland, which was thankfully brief as it was my first live interview, but I forgot to mention Help for Heroes and the expedition website. Such a professional!

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 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

Day 2 in Eilean nan Siar

Today has been another day of waiting...

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

Stage One Complete

Well I managed to get Uig on Skye eventually, arrived at 0130hrs having spent way too long with my engine switched off on the motorway about 5 miles from home, waiting for the Forth Road Bridge to reopen after a hydraulic fluid spillage. Apparently they had to lay and take up cones, which takes an hour each way, and conduct skid tests before it could reopen. The latter just sounds like an excuse to have some fun to me!

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 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 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

One week and counting...

The count down begins today! Hopefully this time next week I'll be on Harris making final kit checks and loading gear onto Atlantic Marine Services'  boat Orca III in preparation for a departure from Leverburgh the next day. Its all still very much weather dependant (the one thing I can't control) but hopefully this week of good weather we're having will allow the seas to settle, and then next week will be reasonable enough for us to head out to Rockall.

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

Three weeks to go!

Only three weeks to go and I'll have been in Harris and will hopefully be well on my way to Rockall, if not already landed - it all depends on the weather.

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 . 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


Today, being a month before I was due to depart for Rockall on my 60 day occupation attempt, is the day I had written in the diary that I needed to have all the funding in place for the expedition. Unfortunately, the cash required has not been forthcoming, despite some very generous pledges from the likes of Petrostrat.

So, like so many other adventurers both this and last year, I have had to officially postpone the record breaking attempt for another year. However, I'm please to say that I will still be departing for Rockall at the end of May on a much shorter reconnaissance expedition. This will allow me to recce the rock, test kit and equipment, as well as attempt a landing and check out various aspects of Rockall itself, of which up until now I have had to rely on other people's descriptions.

I hope that this reconnaissance expedition will raise the profile of the main objective, that of setting a new occupation record in the future, especially as both The Scottish Sun and the BBC will be coming along for the ride! This will also hopefully bring the expedition to the attention of future sponsors, who can help with the funding for the next attempt.

I will shortly be launching a new website for the recce expedition, still at, so please watch that space. For now, thank you to all those companies who have already donated equipment or pledged their support.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012


Brilliantly, today Safequip have agreed to provide the expedition with a bouyancy aid, which I will use during the landing on and evacuation of Rockall. Safequip are widely recognised as one of the leading suppliers of technical rescue and water rescue equipment to the emergency services, both in the UK and around the world. Numerous rescue organisations currently choose Safequip as their single source supplier for water rescue and technical rescue equipment.

Specially developed for the emergency rescue services, the Rescue Pro is the ultimate technical rescue PFD for all types of water borne operations. Manufactured using a hard wearing, durable rip-stop fabric and comes with many features and is certified to the latest ISO standard. It has one of the highest buoyancy levels compared with other different brands on the market.

I am very grateful to Safequip as this is one of those keys pieces of equipment which could make the difference between landing on Rockall and not.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Rocky Start

Well, after a rocky start (excuse the pun) I finally managed to finish a video interview with Iain Mciver for his blog. He will be sending me a link which I will post up asap. Iain also informed me of another article in The Scotsman today about the expedition and my struggles to raise the funds to go, so thanks Iain for the heads up!

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

Safe and sound

I got back home yesterday after a manic week in London to a massive box of goodies from Tackle Store Ltd., who have very kindly provided the expediton with access and safety equipment and the all-important gear for strapping the Rockpod to Rockall, in order that it stays put for the duration of my 60 day stay.
Obviously, I'm very grateful to Tackle Store for their help and support in this key area of safety. To find out more about them and their products, please click on the logo above.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Bronze Sponsor Confirmed

Brilliantly, over the weekend, Petrostrat confirmed their pledge to come on board as a Bronze sponsor of the expedition. This takes me another step closer to the target amount required for the expedition to depart in May.

For those who don't know, PetroStrat Ltd. is a Biostratigraphic Consultancy that provides a full suite of specialist palaeontological services (micropalaeontology, nannopalaeontology and palynology) to the Oil & Gas industry. Based in Conwy, North Wales and an associate member of Geoscience Wales Ltd., they specialise in the provision of wellsite (real time) biostratigraphic services and high resolution, quantitative reservoir scale studies. Their stratigraphers have worked on several wells and shallow boreholes in both the UK and Irish Rockall areas.

So, now you know!

Thursday, 15 March 2012


I'm very please to announce that thanks to a referral from Panasonic I have had confirmed today that Telespazio / VEGA Space Ltd. have very kindly agreed to supply the expedition with a satellite phone and airtime, which means that the last of my major costs, except for the boat charter, is now covered.

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

Getting closer....

Another good few days to report:

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.

Getting closer....

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

A date with the Rock booked

I have finally got a date booked in the diary for going to Rockall with Kilda Cruises on their new boat, which will be finished next month. Its being built especially, not for me (!) but for trips to Rockall and other off-shore work.

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

Space for Sponsors...

Photo credit: Phil Wilkinson, Edinburgh Evening News
The word is spreading, I managed to get a great double page spread in the Edinburgh Evening News and on The Scotsman website. I hope sponsors are watching and notice all the free space available on the RockPod shelter for logos, which will appear in future press photos and newspaper articles.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Oh My Pod!

I managed to get some great PR for the expedition from The Sun yesterday. If you didn't see the article, and the awesome Sun headline, click on this link.

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.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

New Rockall Solo Facebook Page

I'm please to announce the all new Rockall Solo Expedition Facebook page has been launched today. This will allow me to update the Facebook page regularly with my Tweets and Blogs, which I was unable to do on the old Facebook group. Please click the link and 'like' it.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

More good news...

Things continue to move forward at pace regarding equipment at least. McMurdo Fast Find have donated a Fast Find PLB to the expedition, which means that if everything does go pear-shaped, Pete Tong, etc. and I have to "abandon ship" (for ship, read rock) then I can activate the PLB and be found fast! This is especially important as far out as Rockall as I will be right on the outer limit of HM Coastguard's search and rescue capability, which menas no fuel time for messing around trying to locate me.
The Fast Find is a waterproof 406 MHz Personal Location Beacon (PLB) that should be carried by individuals, who are embarking on trips into areas around the world where there is little or no other form of communication or where other forms of communication are unlikely to work. The Fast Find acts as a personal Emergency Location Beacon, it is my last resort communication to the national and international search and rescue bodies. The Fast Find is designed as a direct communication, to the 406 MHz Search and Rescue satellite system, its signal indicates that I am in need of urgent response and assistance.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Toughbook for a tough challenge!

Things seem to be moving forward very well in 2012! Following a telephone conversation today, I'm please to announce that Panasonic have very kindly agreed to loan me a Toughbook laptop, a water, freeze, shock and dust proof FT3 digital camera, and a professional quality video camera for the duration of the expedition. These will allow me to capture life as it happens on the rock, and once I have satcoms sorted, I'll also be able to blog and Tweet live from Rockall!

Toughbook doesn’t just lead the ruggedized computing market, it defined it. Since the first model launched more than a decade ago, Toughbooks have created their own niche in the world of mobile technology, redefining the possibilities of access to data and applications in the most challenging of environments.

Still the main outstanding issue is that of funding for final bits and bobs, but mostly for the boat charter. I'm so close to finally getting this project off the ground; I now need some hard cash!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Flooring and (maybe) computing

Thanks to the guys at Pyramid who sent the flooring for the RockPod, which arrived safe and sound today by courier. I just need to tighten and cut a few bolts, then the floor can be insulated and fitted over the next couple of weeks.
Also this week, after lots of emailing requests to various companies, I have been contacted by an IT provider and PC manufacturer with a view to supplying the expedition with their services and equipment. I still need to finalise the details, but after boat charter this was the next biggest expense, so will be feeling pretty chuffed if we can agree something concrete.