A Northern Irish man is getting ready to spend a week in isolation as he camps out in a tent on some basalt islands, two miles off the Northern Irish shore.
Father-of-two Michael Hassan, 52, will only have the company of seagulls, seals and the black rabbits during his stay on the Skerries islands near Portrush – a challenge which he is undertaking for charity.
He is raising money for the Mercy Ships; an international organisation with fully decked-out hospital facilities, whose vessels ply the seven seas, bringing health care, health education programmes, agricultural projects and palliative care to undeveloped nations.
His Robinson Crusoe-style adventure also has a conservation-related purpose.
He will be counting all manner of seabirds as well as dolphins, seals, humpback whales and basking sharks, reporting his findings back to the authorities.
A part-time fisherman, he’ll be setting off in his kayak, loaded with primus stove for cooking – “there is no wood on the islands” – some food, plus his fishing rods and lobster pots.
“I’ll be angling for fish like pollock and plaice. I also plan to clean up the islands, for I’m sure there’s plenty of rubbish like plastic and ropes washed up on them.”
He is fully expecting high winds.
His week on the Skerries is from September 23 until 30.
During that autumn period, the Atlantic off the north Coast is often at its worst.
“I’m fully prepared,” said Michael.
“I don’t think I’ll be marooned when I’m getting ready to head back home, for the Skerries act as a barrier to the waves on the Portrush side, with the winds coming from the north.”
Born and bred in Portrush, he works at the Old Bushmills Distillery along the coast, “and my workmates are fully behind what I’m doing”.
He said: “My target for the charity is £7,000, and I have a just giving page where anyone can donate.”
Married to Dee, they have two children – Mikey (at university) and Maisie (at primary school). And Michael will be allowing himself the luxury of a mobile phone.
“My father hasn’t been too well, so my mother can call in case of emergency.”
And should he get bored, he could bring a spade to dig for the fabled treasure of the 14th century Scots pirate Tavish Dhu, who is purported to have buried his great riches on the Skerries, as stated in the recent book on Portrush, ‘The Port of the Promontory’ by local historian Hugh McGrattan.
The book also explains there are 17 islands and islets in the chain which is an extension of Ramore Head.
Large Skerry, one of the main four, has a water spring and that’s where Michael will pitch his tent.
And he plans to use his kayak to explore the 17, some of which are simply rocks jutting out of the Atlantic.