Saturday, 13 January 2007

The Shipping Forecast

I keep meaning to re-tune my radio away from the BBC's Radio 4. However, at night, it switches automatically to the World Service - difficult to imagine a radio station closing down for the night in these days of 24-hour shopping and television! I grew up hearing the World Service in the middle of the night as my mother was a real night owl, and she would listen to the plays (they still did those back then, rather than the continual re-hashing of "news" which isn't really.)

Anyway, there's something comforting about having the radio mutter quietly in the background - reassurance that I haven't overslept, mostly - so I find the habit hard to break. Maybe I'll give it up for Lent.

One of the last things I hear, just before Radio 4 closes, is the Shipping Forecast. I have listened to it for years. There is something very cozy about being under the duvet while hearing that there's a "Southwesterly 6 or 7, becoming cyclonic 7 to severe gale 9 for a time. Rain at times. Moderate." It's like another language. Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire... Dogger, Fisher, German Bight, (that always drew houls of laughter round the dinner table - my mother is German, and she'd always mime to that one!) Humber, Thames, Dover, Wight...

Wednesday night we had lots of high winds. I'd often heard "storm 10" mentioned, but it was the first time that I heard "violent storm 11" used. And the announcer ended the Radio 4 broadcast with a special mention of those out at sea... another first.

So I wondered what came after 11: I knew the Beaufort Wind Scale went up to 12, but was puzzled as to what description would be added... super-violent? ...extremely violent? ...very violent?

I finally decided to have a look on Google: and it's fascinating to see where all those sea areas actually are... I had no idea Trafalgar was all the way down there!! If you're interested, you can have a look for yourself, by clicking HERE.

(BTW, 12 is actually hurricane force!)

4 comments:

northern cleric said...

I still mourn the 2002 passing of Finistere - replaced by FitzRoy. It put my lovely map of shipping areas out of date!

Gildas said...

I remember wandering round the Tate once, when it was all on the one site, and finding someone had done a video showing all the places. You got to see waves crashing against rocks while the shipping forecast was read out. It was actually really beautiful.

I also really enjoyed Charlie Connelly's book "Attention all Shipping: A Journey Round the Shipping Forecast".

Ttony said...

My wife, who suffers from my being a shipping forecast enthusiast, bought me a copy of "Attention All Shipping" in which the author not only tries to travel round all the places mentioned, but also gives a history of the broadcast at the same time. It's really worth a read.

I have a friend whose mother-in-law was the midwife for the island of Utsire. How's that for a claim to fame?

Paulinus said...

The Shipping Forecast has a special place in my family. It is unerringly a very British thing -despite the fact that it mentions foreign places (like Finistere, sorry, Fitzroy). It has a peaceful certainty about it repetitiveness akin to the Divine Praises and the Litany of Our Lady (but obviously I would not want to conflate the sacred and the profane)


We are so attached to it our dog is named after one of the areas (this is what she looks like:
http://inhocsigno.blogspot.com/2006/10/wet-dog-at-whitby.html ) . The picture was taken on the coast of HUMBER. Her successors will all be named after Shipping Forecast areas (though I can't imagine shouting "North Utsire! Come here girl!" at a labrador in the park)

Now, where was I? Ahh, yes

"ISSUED BY THE MET OFFICE AT 142100 UTC
GALE WARNINGS: VIKING FORTIES CROMARTY FORTH TYNE DOGGER HUMBER FAIR ISLE

THE GENERAL SITUATION AT MIDDAY ATLANTIC LOW 982 MOV RPDY NE, EXP N OF NORWAY 973 BY MIDDAY TOMORROW. ATLANTIC LOW 1002 EXP FAEROES 987 BY SAME TIME

24-HR FCSTS

VIKING SW 6 TO GALE 8, OCNL SEV GALE 9 OR STORM 10. VERY ROUGH OR HIGH. RAIN ............"

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