Crew from HMS VIDAL erecting the Union Flag on Rockall

Captain A.T.E. Vidal, a Royal Navy surveyor.

The ship was named after the Captain who first charted Rockall

HMS VIDAL (Her finest hour)



HMS Vidal spent her career carrying out surveys for the Navy, and supporting scientific work for the British government. The development of the Cold War led the British government to decide to formally annex Rockall. This was authorized on 14 September 1955, with orders from Queen Elizabeth II transmitted to the Vidal detailing

On arrival at Rockall you will effect a landing and hoist the Union flag on whatever spot appears most suitable or practicable and you will then take possession of the island on our behalf.

The Vidal arrived in position the following day, but was unable to land any men as poor weather prevented the helicopter from flying.

On 18 September 1955 at precisely 10.16 am, Lieutenant-Commander Desmond Scott RN, Sergeant Brian Peel RM, Corporal AA Fraser RM, and James Fisher (a civilian naturalist and former Royal Marine), were deposited on the island by a Royal Navy helicopter from HMS Vidal. The team cemented in a brass plaque on Hall's Ledge and hoisted the Union Flag to stake the UK's claim.

The inscription on the plaque reads:

By authority of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other realms and territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, and in accordance with Her Majesty's instructions dated the 14th day of September, 1955, a landing was effected this day upon this island of Rockall from HMS Vidal. The Union flag was hoisted and possession of the island was taken in the name of Her Majesty. [Signed] R H Connell, Captain, HMS Vidal, 18 September 1955.

The formal annexation of Rockall was announced by the Admiralty on 21 September 1955

Rockall is a small, uninhabited, rocky islet in the north Atlantic Ocean, and one of the sea areas named in the Shipping Forecast broadcast on BBC Radio 4. It could be, in James Fisher's words, "the smallest isolated rock, or the most isolated small rock (both ways will do), in the oceans of the world".

Rockall is within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the United Kingdom. In 1997, the UK ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and thus relinquished any claim to an extension of its EEZ beyond the islet. The remaining issue is the status of the continental shelf rights of surrounding ocean floor. These are the exclusive rights to exploit any resources on or under the ocean floor (oil, natural gas, etc.) and should not be confused with the EEZ, as continental shelf rights do not carry any privileges with regard to fisheries. Ownership of these rights in the Rockall area are disputed between the United Kingdom, Denmark (for the Faroe Islands), Ireland and Iceland.

The exact position of Rockall and the size and shape of the Rockall Bank was first charted in 1831 by Captain A.T.E. Vidal, a Royal Navy surveyor.

There has been one amateur radio visit to Rockall, in 2005. The following year a second was planned. The high cost of this visit led to its cancellation. An attempt to reach the rock was made in May 2008, but the high seas prevented a landing. A new expedition was also considered for June 2008, but was cancelled due to the riskiness of the undertaking, and the high cost of travel to the island.

Rockall is 461.5 km (286.7 mi) from Ardnamurchan Point (approximately WGS84 Latitude North 56° 43' 38.3", Longitude West 6° 13' 38.1"), the nearest point on the Scottish mainland; and 301.4 km (187.3 mi) from the St Kilda archipelago (approximately WGS84 Latitude North 57° 49' 40.8", Longitude West 8° 38 ' 59.7"), the nearest (undisputed) Scottish islands, which are 53 miles (85 km) west of the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides. Also, Rockall is 367.0 km (228.0 mi) (198.1 nmi) from Aird an Runair on the island of North Uist (approximately WGS84 Latitude North 57° 36' 9.7", Longitude West 7° 32' 56.4"), Outer Hebrides, the nearest inhabited island of Scotland after St Kilda was evacuated in 1930.

In 1997 the United Kingdom ratified the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. In doing so it relinquished its right to claim an exclusive economic zone of 200 nmi (370 km) extending onward from the rock, as the agreement states that "Rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf". However, as Rockall lies within 200 nmi (370 km) of both St Kilda and North Uist, the island itself remains within the EEZ of the United Kingdom and as such, under international law the UK can claim "..the sovereignty of the coastal state in relation to the exploitation, conservation and management of natural and living resources fishery and mineral resources" of the rock itself and an area of territorial waters extending for 12 nmi (22 km) around it. Furthermore, the United Kingdom and Ireland have signed a boundary agreement which includes Rockall in the United Kingdom area.

Rockall, and a large sea area around it, was declared as coming under the jurisdiction of Scots law under the Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order (map) in 1999.

The earliest recorded landing on the island was on 8 July 1810 when a Royal Navy officer named Basil Hall led a small landing party from the frigate HMS Endymion to the summit. The frigate was taking depth measurements around Rockall when it drifted away in a haze. The expedition made a brief attempt to find the frigate in the haze, but soon gave up and returned to Rockall. After the haze became a fog, the lookout sent to the top of Rockall spotted the ship again, but it turned away from Rockall before the expedition in their boats reached it. Finally, just before sunset, the frigate was again spotted from the top of Rockall, and the expedition was able to get back on board. The crew of the Endymion reported that they had been searching for five or six hours, firing their cannon every ten minutes. Hall related this experience and other adventures in a book entitled Fragment of Voyages and Travels Including Anecdotes of a Naval Life.

The next landing was accomplished by a Mr Johns of HMS Porcupine, whilst the ship was on a mission, from June and August 1862, to make a survey of the sea bed prior to the laying of a transatlantic telegraph cable. Johns managed to gain foothold on the island, but failed to reach the summit.

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