Rockall is a small, rocky islet in the North Atlantic but is probably better known as one of the British Sea Areas named in the Shipping Forecast broadcast on BBC Radio 4. The status of the surrounding ocean floor is disputed between the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Denmark (for the Faroe Islands) and Iceland.
The island itself is an uninhabitable rock without an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of its own. This is no longer disputed but the UK claimed before 1997 that the island should be taken into account for the purposes of delineating the boundaries of economic zones in the area. The current dispute revolves around continental shelf rights in the area. 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.
The origin of the name is debatable but it has been suggested that it derives from the Gaelic "Sgeir Rocail" which is often translated as "Roaring Rock" although "rocail" is more usually translated as "tearing" or "ripping" (see link).
The rock is the summit of an extinct volcano and is located at . It is about 480 km (300 miles) west of Manish Point , North Uist in Scotland. It is 424 km (265 miles) north-west of Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. The rock is about 25 metres (83 feet) wide at its base and rises sheer to a height of approximately 22 metres (72 feet). It is regularly washed over by large storm waves, particularly in winter. There is a small ledge of 3.5 metres by 1.3 metres (11 feet by 4 feet), known as Hall's Ledge, 4 metres (13 feet) from the summit. The rock's only permanent inhabitants are periwinkles and other marine molluscs. Small numbers of seabirds, mainly Fulmars, Gannets, Kittiwakes, and Guillemots, use the rock for resting in summer, and Gannets and Guillemots occasionally breed successfully if the summer is calm with no storm waves washing over the rock. There is no natural source of fresh water.
Rockall is also close to the Darwin Mounds, deep-water coral mounds about 185 km (115 miles) north-west of Cape Wrath.
There have been disasters on the neighbouring Hassewood Rock and Helen's Reef (Helen's Reef was not named until 1830)
- 1686 - Spanish merchant ship, bound for the New World "ran on the rocks" on 22 August 1686 - 250 people lost their lives.
- 1812 - Survey Vessel LEONIDAS foundered on Helen's Reef
- 1824 - Brigantine HELEN of Dundee bound for Quebec foundered at Hasselwood Rock "the crew left most of the passengers to drown, including seven women and six children".
- 1904 - Steamer NORGE, 3,318 tons with 700 emigrants from Copenhagen to New York on 28 June - 517 lost
- 1984 - Jack (John) Lavelle was lost overboard from the yacht Helen, while returning from Rockall. 
Law of the Sea
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, states "Rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf." The Republic of Ireland, Denmark and Iceland all acceded to the convention. The United Kingdom acceded to the convention on 25 July 1997. The United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland have agreed a delination which ignores Rockall's existence and have granted exploration rights.
History and conflicting claims
British claims to the island
The earliest recorded human landing on the island was in 1811 when Basil Hall of HMS Endymion landed on the neighbouring Hasselwood Rock; the next was not until 1888. On 18 September 1955 the island was officially annexed by Britain when Lieutenant Commander Desmond Scott RN from HMS Vidal was deposited on the island by a Royal Navy helicopter. He cemented in a brass plaque and hoisted the Union Flag to stake the British claim. On 10 February 1972 the Isle of Rockall Act received Royal Assent to make the island part of Inverness-shire, fully incorporating it into the United Kingdom. A navigational beacon was later installed on the island and Britain declared that no ship would be allowed within a 50-mile radius of the rock.
In 1985 former SAS member and survival expert Tom McLean lived on the island for 40 days to affirm Britain's claim to the island.
Irish claims to Rockall
Ireland does not have formal claim to Rockall, regarding it as merely an uninhabitable rock without any territorial waters and thus irrelevant when determining the boundaries of the exclusive economic zones of Denmark, Ireland, Iceland and the United Kingdom. More populist claims to the island are based, in part, on the fact that Rockall is 424 km (265 miles) from Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. It is 480 km (298 miles) from Ardnamurchan Point on the Scottish mainland (although it is 320 km (200 miles) from Saint Kilda, Saint Kilda being 100 miles west of Harris in the Outer Hebrides).
According to a Written Parliamentary Answer from the Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs on June 14, 1990, an agreement was reached between the British and Irish governments on delimitation of the continental shelf between the two countries and that this included a line of delimitation across the Rockall Plateau. As a result, a very extensive area under Irish jurisdiction, including part of the Rockall Trough and Plateau, is undisputed by Britain. Ownership of Rockall itself, and the area surrounding it, did not form part of that agreement and was not affected by it. No further negotiations were taking place in relation to the rock at the time.
More recently, on June 11, 2003, the Irish Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources gave a Written Parliamentary Answer, stating that "Ireland claims an extended continental shelf … up to more than 500 nautical miles, particularly in the Hatton–Rockall area." As the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf has no mandate regarding issues of delimitation between neighbouring states and cannot consider an area under dispute without the agreement of all the parties concerned, Ireland has participated in informal discussions with Iceland and the Faroe Islands in an attempt to resolve the dispute before making its submission to the Commission, which it hopes to make by 2006.
Icelandic claims in the area
Iceland claims continental shelf rights in the Hatton Rockall area. Iceland does not claim the islet itself - its position is the same as is Ireland's: Rockall is a rock, not an island.
Danish/Faroese claims in the area
The Faroe Islands are an autonomous region of the Kingdom of Denmark. Since 1948 they have had self-government in almost all matters except defence and foreign affairs. Consequently their interests in Rockall are represented by Denmark. On their behalf, Denmark claims continental shelf rights in the Hatton Rockall area. It does not claim the islet itself - their position is the same as is Ireland's and Iceland's.
Waveland and the Greenpeace occupation
In 1997 the environmentalist organisation Greenpeace occupied the islet for a short time, calling it Waveland, to protest against oil exploration under the authority of the British. Greenpeace declared the island to be a "new Global State", and offered citizenship to anyone willing to take their pledge of allegiance. The British Government's response was simply to give them permission to be there, and otherwise ignore them.
The project continued until 1999, when the company sponsoring it collapsed and the experiment ended. This interlude nevertheless marked the longest continuous habitation of the islet, at 42 days.
Okinotori-shima , an islet in the China Sea, claimed by Japan as an island and thus sovereign territory with territorial waters but regarded by the Peoples Republic of China as being an insignificant and irrelevant rock.
- An Irish/Celtic band, "The House Band ", has an album called Rockall, named after the place.
- Lyrics of Rock On Rockall  (Irish claim)
- Lyrics of The fleet set sail for Rockall (British claim)
- Rockall is also the name of the land where Anthony Swithin's series "The Perilous Quest for Lyonesse" takes place.
- The conclusion of a famous episode of the 1950s BBC radio series The Goon Show, "Napoleon's Piano", takes place on Rockall. Bluebottle (Spike Milligan) is lowered from "a recording of a helicopter" to salute the Union Jack and claim Rockall as "British". Rockall is shortly thereafter demolished by a nearby rocket-testing range.
- "The Master," an adventure novel by T.H. White, involves two children who are stranded on Rockall. They find that it is hollow and inhabited by a mysterious person who aims to take over the world.