Five men trapped on the Farne Islands

FIVE National Trust employees are trapped on a tiny island as force 10 gales continue to batter the north Northumberland coast.

The group with limited food rations have been on the barren, windswept island of Brownsman on the Farne Islands three miles off Seahouses since November 6.

The men, all aged between 24 and 32, have been surveying the islands seal population.

But they are now confined to their tiny stone cottage as huge waves and high winds have continued to ravage the area.

The fear is now that the seal pup population, which was decimated last autumn as prolonged gales and high seas swept many to their deaths, will again be hit.

The men are National Trust head warden for the Farne Islands, David Steel, 32, Adam Scott from Barnett, London; Jason Moss from Norfolk; Davy Still from Melrose and Adam Hick from Grimsby.

Jason celebrated his 24th birthday on the island at the weekend without any cards, presents or much in the way of food due to the conditions.

Supplies are now running so low fresh water is down to the last few pints and the men were reduced on Tuesday night to eating seaweed for their evening meal.

The longest stint anyone has been stuck on Brownsman was 16 days in November 2002, but with weather conditions not expected to improve until next week David Steel says it is inevitable they will break the record.

But of more worry to David, who when on land lives in Corbridge, Northumberland, is that the seal population will inevitably be suffering for a second year in a row.

Just over 1,000 seal pups have been born so far this autumn with around 100-150 more expected.

David lives on Brownsman between March and December as part of his National Trust head warden duties, but normally gets over to Seahouses regularly to replenish food supplies.

However, that has not been possible since November. If conditions fail to improve – or deteriorate even further – a rescue operation may have to be mounted. But David says he is trying to avoid calling for help as he feels others are in more need at the moment.

He said: "There are five of us stuck in this small cottage on the island at the moment and it would be fair to say we are getting cabin fever. There is a severe force 10 gale blowing and the waves are massive.

"It is hard enough trying to stand up outside and to try and attempt to reach the mainland would be foolhardy.

"If things start to get any worse then we will have to call the coastguard and be airlifted off, but we want to avoid that if we can.

"But we are fast running out of food and drink. All the luxuries have gone and we have no bread, butter, margarine or sugar and we are down to UHT milk. Fresh water is down to a few pints and while we have some frozen meat, supplies of that are running very low.

"Last night (TUESDAY) we cooked seaweed and lentils to try and eke out our meagre supples.

"I have been working on these islands for nine years and this is one of the worst spells of weather I can remember.

"It has been very prolonged after what had looked liked being a promising autumn after the trouble we had last year with so many seal pups being drowned.

"We won't know what damage has been done to the seal colony until the weather improves, but it is heading towards being as bad as last year."

David has been on the islands since March 20 and is due to leave for the winter on December 5.

He added: "I have been doing this job for some years so am to a degree used to the problems being stuck on the Farnes' throws up, but for the others this is a whole new and unpleasant game."