News and views from the heart of England - Issue 2    © David Smith 2018

The BBC shipping forecast

“Humber, Thames. Easterly or southeasterly 5 or 6, occasionally 7. Moderate, occasionally rough at first. Occasional rain. Moderate or good.

There are warnings of gales in Rockall, Malin, Hebrides, Bailey, and Fair Isle.”

Hallowed words, typical of the UK Shipping Forecast produced by the Meteorological Office, and issued by the BBC four times a day, on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The shipping forecast is transmitted at 0048 (FM and LW), 0520 (FM and LW), 1201 (LW only), and 1754 (LW only on weekdays, but FM as well at weekends). The forecast covers specific sea areas around the British Isles, and gives information, in a precise and unvarying format: the areas are named first, followed by details, for those areas, on wind, sea state, weather, and finally visibility. A gale warning may follow the area forecasts, if appropriate.

The shipping forecast dates back to 1861. Vice-Admiral Robert Fitzroy, the first professional weatherman, captain of the HMS Beagle, and the founder of the Met Office, introduced a warning service for ships, using telegraph communication. The Met Office began issuing marine weather forecasts in 1911, using radio transmissions, for areas around Great Britain. The service was discontinued during both world wars.

Sea area names have their origins as follows:

Actually, I made that last one up, although Edward Heath did, in 1973, take the UK into what was then informally called the Common Market. Membership was confirmed in a referendum held on 5 June 1975, with a 67% vote in favour of staying in. It didn’t stay as the EEC for long, however. The UK joined what was then seen as a common trade and economic area, but by 1993 it had become the European Union, a full political and economic bloc, with its own currency, and largely without internal borders. On 23 June 2016, in the first referendum on membership since the EEC became the EU, the UK voted to leave by a margin of 51.89% to 48.11%.