For the last 150 years, mariners have been receiving the Shipping Forecast, helping them to decide whether to put to sea or stay on dry land. Read all about it and find out 10 interesting facts you probably didn't know about the service...
As British as cricket, strawberries and cream and a cup of tea, the Shipping Forecast marks its 150th anniversary today (24 August).
According to The Met Office, it is believed to be the longest running continuous forecast in the world.
Although the first gale warning was issued in 1859 following a violent storm off the coast of North Wales, it wasn’t until 1867 that gale warnings at sea were issued on a regular basis.
The Royal Charter storm in 1859 off Anglesey not only claimed the ship, Royal Charter and the majority of the 487 crew and passengers on board, but saw 132 other boats wrecked with the loss of 800 lives.
It was a media sensation at the time; Charles Dickens wrote about it in his All the Year Round journal.
It also led to improvements in weather forecasting and the Meteorological Office, which had only been established in 1854.
Captain Robert FitzRoy, who was in charge of the office at the time, persuaded the Board of Trade to allow him to start storm warnings in a bid to prevent tragedies like the Royal Charter happening again.
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Initially printed in the daily press, it was then sent to ships using telegraph communications. The first radio broadcasts began in 1921 and it wasn’t until 1925 that the BBC was chosen to broadcast the shipping forecast.
Since then, its evolved into the iconic forecasts that sailors and non-sailors alike can listen to four times a day.
Commenting on the anniversary, the lifesaving service manager for the RNLI, Peter Dawes, said the Shipping Forecast is vital for helping to save lives at sea.
“The Met Office Shipping Forecast is an excellent source of information, and a vital tool in helping people make critical safety decisions at the coast and at sea. We urge everyone to check the weather before heading to the coast, in order to stay safe,” he stressed.
The Met Office said that not only have the number of forecasts produced increased but so has the accuracy of them over the last 150 years.
The Shipping Forecast has a 93% accuracy, while the inshore waters forecast has a 97% accuracy.
Met Office advisor, Penny Tranter, said: “The Met Office is highly regarded internationally the experience we have providing severe weather warnings for over 150 years is unprecedented.”
“We are trusted for good reason, with forecasts such as the shipping forecast reaching accuracy levels over 90%,” she added.
Shipping Forecast Facts:
- Captain Robert FitzRoy was the captain of Darwin’s The Beagle.
- In 2002, there was outcry when it was decided to replace Finisterre with FitzRoy, with letters written to the BBC, Downing Street and the Met Office. The decision was made over alleged confusion with the Spanish sea area, also called Finisterre.
- There are 31 sea areas covered by the Shipping Forecast, stretching from SE Iceland to Trafalgar off Portugal.
- The Shipping Forecast was played during the opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The aim was to represent Britain’s maritime heritage.
- As well as the familiar Radio 4 voices, the Shipping Forecast has been read by the likes of Alan Bennett and former Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott.
- The Shipping Forecast has inspired numerous songs including Blur’s “This Is a Low”, Radiohead’s “Limbo”, and has even been sampled by The Prodigy in their song, “Weather Experience”.
- The BBC has only failed to broadcast the Shipping Forecast once. On Friday, 30 May 2014, staff at Broadcasting House were reading out the report but it was not transmitted. Listeners instead heard the BBC World Service.
- The Shipping Forecast is broadcast four times a day on BBC Radio 4 long wave at 0048, 0520, 1201 and 1754.
- In 2011, listeners to Test Match Special failed to hear the dramatic end of England’s successful Ashes series – the station cut away to the Shipping Forecast moments before the final wicket fell.
- BBC4 former newsreader Brian Perkins has rapped the forecast for the BBC comedy show, Dead Ringers.