Unlikely as it may seem, the BBC Shipping Forecast is a national institution.
It is broadcast four times a day and provides detailed information on the condition of seas and coastal waters surrounding the
With our island status and strong historical links to the sea, the
I particularly find the well-known repetition of the names of the sea areas almost hypnotic, particularly during the bedtime (for
Controller of BBC Radio 4 Mark Damazer describes the Shipping Forecast as a prose poem saying;
“It scans poetically. It’s got a rhythm of its own. It’s eccentric, it’s unique, it’s English. It’s mysterious because not many know where these places are, it takes you to a faraway place you can’t truly comprehend.”
The forecast for each shipping area is read out according to a strict format.
Gale warnings (winds of force 8 or more, on the Beaufort scale), if any (e.g. There are warnings of gales in Rockall, Malin,
The General Synopsis follows, giving the position, pressure (in millibars) and track of pressure areas (e.g. Low, Rockall, 987, deepening rapidly, expected
Each area's forecast is then read out. Several areas may be combined into a single forecast where the conditions are expected to be similar. Wind direction is given first, then strength (on the Beaufort scale), followed by precipitation, if any, and (usually) lastly visibility.
Change in wind direction is indicated by veering (clockwise change) or backing (anti-clockwise change). Winds of above force 8 are also described by name for emphasis, e.g. Gale 8, Severe Gale 9, Storm 10, Violent Storm 11 and Hurricane force 12.
The word "force" is only officially used when announcing force 12 winds.
Visibility is given in the format Good, meaning that the visibility is greater than 5 nautical miles; Moderate, where visibility is between 2 and 5 nautical miles; Poor, where visibility is between 1000 metres and 2 nautical miles and Fog, where visibility is less than 1000 metres.
When severe winter cold combines with strong winds and a cold sea, icing can occur, normally only in sea area Southeast Iceland; if expected, icing warnings (light, moderate or severe) are given as the last item of each sea area forecast.
The forecast is then read out in the following typical format:
The Shipping Forecast has also inspired writing, painting and photographic collections and notable inclusion in contemporary poetry.
Seamus Heaney wrote a sonnet "The Shipping Forecast", which opens:
Dogger, Rockall, Malin,
Green, swift upsurges,
Conjured by that strong gale-warming voice,
Collapse into a sibilant penumbra.
The Carol Ann Duffy poem "Prayer" finishes with the lines:
Darkness outside. Inside, the radio's prayer —
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.
I wish you all fair weather and a pleasant weekend.
Just a footnote, the reading of the forecast is not accompanied by music as in the YouTube clip.