Rockall, the islet disputed by the United Kingdom, Ireland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands

This tiny rocky rock located in the North Atlantic is located on a sedimentary basin of the oceanic crust, under which there are oil and mineral reserves.

Its maximum width is barely 27 meters and it protrudes 23 meters from the sea, with a total area of ​​570 square meters. It is located 430 kilometers northwest of Ireland, 460 kilometers west of Great Britain and 700 kilometers south of Iceland.

Due to its characteristics, the rock is completely uninhabitable, but fearing that it could be used by Soviet spies, the United Kingdom sent four royal marines on September 18, 1955 aboard a helicopter, who made the annexation of the island official, hoisting the British flag and placing a plaque with the following inscription:

By the authority of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and its other realms and territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, and in accordance with the On Her Majesty’s instructions dated September 14, 1955, a landing was made this day on this Rockall Island from HMS Vidal. The Union flag was hoisted and possession of the island was taken in the name of her Majesty.

Three days later the British Admiralty announced to the world the singular annexation. Protests from Ireland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands were not long in coming, claiming sovereignty over the rock for themselves.

Rockall situation / photo Public Domain on Wikimedia Commons

The main reason for the operation was that the United Kingdom was about to test the newly acquired American guided nuclear missile system, and the tests would take place in that part of the Atlantic. If the Soviets moved a contingent there they could easily spy on and gather data on the system. If it hadn’t been for that, nobody would have cared about Rockall, at least until years later, when geological studies found potential oil reserves nearby.

However, and despite the fact that neither Ireland nor Iceland nor the Faroe Islands recognize British sovereignty over the rock, they have never made any petition or protest in this regard, limiting themselves to officially ignoring the matter.

In fact, the agreements signed between Ireland and the United Kingdom on their exclusive economic zones ignore the islet as something irrelevant, especially since being considered habitable, it cannot have an exclusive economic zone either.

Of course, from time to time Irish military ships patrol the area. In this sense, in October 2012 the Irish newspaper independent published a photograph of the patrolman roisin next to the island, stating that he was merely exercising sovereign rights of ireland in the place.

The British did not take the matter very seriously either, and as early as 1955 the landing it was the object of jokes and ridicule in the English press (something similar to what would happen to Spain with the Perejil islet), and it was seen as the more or less ridiculous epithet of the end of the British empire.

Rockall is famous for being the place where the highest wave in history has been measured. It happened on February 8, 2000, when the oceanographic ship RSS Discovery registered a wave of 29.1 meters in the middle of a storm with force 9 winds and waves of an average height of 18 meters.

In 1972 a small lighthouse, barely a beacon, was installed on top of the rock. The existence of the lighthouse made possible the incorporation of the place to the county of Inverness that same year, reinforcing the British claims on the seabed of the area. And in 1975 a new mineral was discovered there, called Bazirite.

The Irish ship Róisin patrolling in Rockall / photo Irish Defense Forces on Flickr

In case there were any doubts about sovereignty, former SAS member Tom McClean stayed on the island from May 26 to July 4, 1985. And in 1997 Greenpeace occupied it for a short period of time, to protest against the oil exploitation, something that was largely ignored by the British government. What it does seem is that they took the plate placed in 1955.

The record for staying on the island is held by the explorer Nick Hancock, who spent 45 days there alone, having to give up his attempt to reach 60 days after losing a large part of his provisions due to a storm.

Since 2007, the United Kingdom has tried to extend its sovereignty over the place to an area of ​​350 nautical miles (564 kilometers) around the islet.


The Guardian / Secret Scotland / The Irish Times / GrindTV / The Telegraph / Wikipedia