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The islet of Rockall
The islet of Rockall is 31 metres long and 17 metres tall, with a 4-metre by 1.5-metre ledge near the top. Photograph: Colin Trigg, SNH, Marine Scotland/Crown Copyright
The islet of Rockall is 31 metres long and 17 metres tall, with a 4-metre by 1.5-metre ledge near the top. Photograph: Colin Trigg, SNH, Marine Scotland/Crown Copyright

Sixty days on a ledge in the Atlantic: teacher aims to break Rockall record

Chris ‘Cam’ Cameron ready to set sail for barren rock 230 miles from nearest permanently inhabited place

A science teacher has found an unusual way of exorcising the loneliness and isolation of the repeated lockdowns during the Covid crisis. He plans to spend two months living alone on Rockall, a barren islet deep in the Atlantic.

Chris “Cam” Cameron, 53, will set sail for Rockall this week in an attempt to break the record for occupying the sheer-sided chunk of granite. He plans to spend at least 60 days perched on a ledge measuring barely 4 metres by 1.5 metres, to raise money for charity.

Rockall, 31 metres long and 17 metres tall, sits 230 miles (370km) west of North Uist in the Hebrides, the nearest permanently inhabited place. During the winter months it is pounded by storms so intense that the entire rock will vibrate with the impact of the waves.

Annexed by the UK in 1955, the islet sits in rich fishing grounds and has been at the centre of sporadic territorial disputes with Ireland, which disputes British ownership, as well as protests over its potential role in deep sea oil drilling.

Several years ago an Irish trawler provoked a diplomatic incident by fishing within the UK’s 12-mile territorial waters around Rockall. In 1997 the rock was occupied for 42 days by three Greenpeace campaigners objecting to oil surveys in the surrounding seas; they rechristened it as the micronation of “Waveland”.

Cameron’s goal is more modest. He hopes to beat the longest occupation record, of 45 days, set by Nick Hancock, a surveyor from Ratho near Edinburgh, in 2014. Hancock had hoped to subsist on the rock for 60 days but was forced to cut his expedition short after losing rations and supplies in a storm.

Chris ‘Cam’ Cameron
Chris ‘Cam’ Cameron says Rockall is ‘the most isolated, loneliest place in the world’. Photograph: Sam Frost/The Guardian

Cameron has been fascinated by Rockall since Tom McClean, a former SAS member, set the first occupation record of 40 days in 1985. “It’s just an amazing place – the remotest place in the UK,” he said.

An electronics lecturer and former science teacher who lives in Wiltshire, Cameron is setting sail from Inverkip, a port on the Clyde coast, with two companions – a radio expert and a mountaineer – who will live with him for the first week to 10 days of his expedition.

Adrian “Nobby” Styles, the radio operator, will share Cameron’s small survival pod; Emil Bergmann, a Bulgarian mountaineer and radio ham, plans to sleep outside on a hanging platform known as a portaledge, used by mountaineers to sleep dangling off cliffs. If a storm hits, all three will squeeze into Cameron’s pod. “It’s comfy for two people; very, very crowded for three,” he said.

A former soldier with the Gordon Highlanders originally from Buckie in Moray, Cameron’s goal is to raise £50,000 for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity and ABF The Soldiers’ Charity. He said the expedition was intended to honour all the seafarers, soldiers and submariners who spent long periods overseas.

The Covid lockdowns, he said, “made me feel remote, isolated and alone. It just got me thinking: can I challenge myself further and do some good. Rockall popped up. It’s the most isolated, loneliest place in the world. I’m going to challenge myself to do something uncomfortable and really difficult – which is why only five people have ever stayed there for any length of time.”


Styles and Bergmann will play a key role in the fundraising by broadcasting to amateur radio enthusiasts around the world, working in shifts 24 hours a day for the first week. Radio hams will be sold QSL cards, a postcard-based certificate with Rockall’s unique location code, which confirms they have had radio contact with the islet.

Cameron likened the collection of these cards to finding a very scarce Panini football sticker, or a trainspotter seeing a rare locomotive. Since Rockall is so infrequently occupied, the islet’s QSL cards are among the rarest.

Their chartered yacht, an 18-metre (60ft) boat called Taeping, will remain in the vicinity for the first week before returning Styles and Bergmann to the mainland. Cameron will then be alone, left for two months with supplies, a laptop, a VHF radio and an Iridium satellite terminal, which will act like a wifi router, and a small solar panel to ensure his battery packs remain fully charged.

Hancock has offered Cameron advice about technical and logistical issues. He said the greatest challenge in 2014 was the “mental games” needed to survive 40 days of complete isolation. “Which is why I had planned to do so much: learn to play the harmonica, which didn’t happen, and to speak Italian, and do scientific research. Being busy is probably the best way to combat that.”

Hancock admits he will be disappointed if he loses his record. “I always knew it would probably be broken at some point, but I would’ve hoped it would last longer than a decade,” he said. “But then if Cam does break it: well done.”

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