Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Thinking of Rockall

Swathing around in the north of the Rockall Bank having skimmed past the rock in the night, many of us are still hoping we will have time to catch a glimpse of the actual rock of Rockall where radio enthusiasts long to be able to broadcast from and the shipping forecast makes mention of all the time. It often sparks conversation "how high is it?" "is it covered in birds?" "how close will we have to be to see it?" "does it have a light on it?". So as we have had another day able to do nothing but multibeam and hope that the swell calms down, I had a little look around for some info. I've even found a poem which is rather evocative:

Where we are today: you can see that we passed near the rock in the middle of the night.


by Epes Sargent (1813-1880 United States)

PALE ocean rock! that, like a phantom shape,
Or some mysterious spirit's tenement,
Risest amid this weltering waste of waves,
Lonely and desolate, thy spreading base
Is planted in the sea's unmeasured depths,
Where rolls the huge leviathan o'er sands
Glistening with shipwrecked treasures. The strong wind
Flings up thy sides a veil of feathery spray
With sunbeams interwoven, and the hues
Which mingle in the rainbow. From thy top
The sea-birds rise, and sweep with sidelong flight
Downward upon their prey; or, with poised wings,
Skim to the horizon o'er the glittering deep.
Our bark, careening to the welcome breeze,
With white sails filled and streamers all afloat,
Shakes from her dripping prow the foam, while we
Gaze on thy outline mingling in the void,
And draw our breath like men who see, amazed,
Some mighty pageant passing. What had been
Our fate last night, if, when the aspiring waves
Were toppling o'er our mainmast, and the stars
Were shrouded in black vapors, we had struck
Full on thy sea-bound pinnacles, Rockall!
But now another prospect greets our sight,
And hope elate is rising with our hearts:
Intensely blue, the sky's resplendent arch
Bends over all serenely; not a cloud
Mars its pure radiance; not a shadow dims
The flashing billows. The refreshing air
It is a luxury to feel and breathe;
The senses are made keener, and drink in
The life, the joy, the beauty of the scene.
Repeller of the wild and thundering surge!
For ages has the baffled tempest howled
By thee with all its fury, and piled up
The massive waters like a falling tower
To dash thee down; but there thou risest yet,
As calm amid the roar of storms, the shock
Of waves uptorn, and hurled against thy front,
As when, on summer eves, the crimsoned main
In lingering undulations, girds thee round!
O, might I stand as steadfast and as free
'Mid the fierce strife and tumult of the world,
The crush of all the elements of woe,--
Unshaken by their terrors, looking forth
With placid eye on life's uncertain sea,
Whether its waves were darkly swelling high
Or dancing in the sunshine,--then might frown
The clouds of fate around me! Firm in faith,
Pointing serenely to that better world,
Where there is peace, would I abide the storm,
Unmindful of its rage and of its end.


Height: 19m
Length: 31m
Width: 25.3m
Distance from Scotland: 301.4km west from St Kilda
Distance from Ireland: 430km north-west of Donegal
Birds: Fulmars, Gannets, Kittiwakes and Guillimots
Currently owned by: The United Kingdom
Others who have laid claim to the islet: Ireland, Denmark (Faroes), Iceland

Fingers crossed we shall see it one of these days. We will continue multibeaming until tomorrow evening probably, but if the weather perks up we can drop autosub in the water for high resolution mapping and if it's even better than that we can start on the ROV transects! Watch this space.


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