Rockall is the tip of a volcano, a micro-continent far out in the North Atlantic, a rock 20 metres high in an ocean that sometimes has waves that big.
In 1997 we lived there for 42 days in a climate protest; watch the slideshow, it’s worth two minutes, and/or read on for more. Almost nobody understood climate protest then.
The British claimed Rockall in the 1970s, and so claimed any under-sea oil within 200 miles. London started selling oil exploration licences round it in the 1990s. But the UK’s legal claim to the seabed and oil was very weak, because a UN convention said uninhabitable offshore rocks could not claim such rights.
By 1997 the Carbon Logic was clear: fossil fuels were cooking the climate, and burning even half of the oil we had ALREADY discovered would cause global chaos. Therefore it was clearly stupid to ‘discover’ more oil if we could never burn it. (read more on Carbon Logic).
Greenpeace challenged the deep-sea oil developments round Rockall by living on the rock that summer, to establish a stronger ‘territorial claim’ than the UK government’s; to stop the exploration and raise awarness of this terrible ‘Carbon Logic’. From the Greenpeace ship, volunteers for six weeks jumped in front of seismic survey ships, pushing them offcourse for hours each time and stopping their data-gathering for weeks. Oil companies bought a ship to follow us, the government put special forces commandos on it.
The ‘Global State of Waveland’ was started with a flag-raising ceremony on Rockall, it was an online ‘virtual nation’ in the early days of the internet; 15,000 people received citizenship certificates worldwide, hundreds of passports were issued. Waveland lived on for some years external to Greenpeace, but the hosting company went under. In much diminished form, it was revived and you can still apply for citizenship at waveland.org
We installed a solar powered lighthouse the day we left Rockall, and on the way home we stumbled across an oil rig north of Scotland. The Stena Dee was a few miles from her next job – connecting the final plumbing for the first deep-water oil well in the Atlantic. People jumped into the water in front of her, and boarded her when she stopped. We hoisted up the pod and she could not move for the next week. Our captain was charged with piracy, a very serious crime with a possible life sentence. Oil rigs are not cheap – BP seized Greenpeace UK’s bank accounts in a demand for 1.4 million pounds, a foolish move that brought the story to the font pages. They soon backed down.
No New Oil was our slogan, and we called for 20% cuts of CO2, (compared to 1990 levels) by 2005. Ahh, if only people had listened – but back then most didn’t believe in climate change, didn’t see an urgency, and didn’t believe our carbon addiction was to blame.
A decade later, the fools are still wasting time and money looking for oil out there in the deep, dark, wild ocean.