Atlas Obscura: “This weather report has been making waves for 150 years.”

Photo by Michael Browning on Unsplash.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Eric McFadden (WD8RIF), who notes that the excellent website, Atlas Obscura, recently featured The Shipping Forecast:

Why a Maritime Forecast Is So Beloved in the United Kingdom

For the penultimate song on their 1994 album Parklife, Blur chose the swirling, meditative epic, “This Is a Low.” The song envisions a five-minute trip around the British Isles as an area of low pressure hits.

“Up the Tyne, Forth, and Cromarty,” sings the lead singer Damon Albarn, “there’s a low in the high Forties.” The song’s litany of playful-sounding place names, including the improbable “Biscay” and “Dogger,” may seem obscure to listeners abroad, but to a British audience, they resonate.

The song’s lyrics were inspired by the Shipping Forecast, a weather report that is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. Sailors working around the coasts of Britain and Ireland, recipients of the wrath of the North Atlantic and North Sea, are the ostensible beneficiaries of the forecast.

But, for listeners who tune in while tucked in bed rather than sailing the high seas, the reassuring sound—a simple, steady listing of conditions in the seas around the British Isles, broken down into 31 “sea areas,” most of which are named after nearby geographical features—is something more akin to the beating pulse of the United Kingdom, as familiar as the national anthem or the solemn chimes of Big Ben.[…]

Continue reading the full story via Atlas Obscura.

Thanks for the tip, Eric!

SWLing Post readers know that I’m quite a fan of The Shipping Forecast. We’ve posted a number of articles about the Forecast on the SWLing Post in the past–click here to read through our archives.

When I lived in the UK, I would often fall asleep and/or wake up to the Shipping Forecast. Here in the States, I can listen to the forecast live via the U Twente WebSDR, but I rarely remember to do so.

And, of course, I can navigate to the Radio 4 website and stream current and past forecasts on demand, but I find the audio a little too clean and full fidelity. I prefer listening to my maritime poetry via Amplitude Modulation (AM)!

To satisfy my desire for some AM forecasts, this morning I fed my SSTran AM transmitter with audio from the Radio 4 website, then made a recording with my AirSpy HF+ SDR.

Here’s my AM version of the Shipping Forecast:

Click here to download as an MP3.

For the record: this is what you get when you combine a radio and shipping forecast geek!

Spread the radio love

7 thoughts on “Atlas Obscura: “This weather report has been making waves for 150 years.”

  1. Lou


    I don’t recall seeing on here any kind of coverage about the troubles SSTran finds themselves in. Shame they couldn’t keep things going.

    1. Thomas Post author

      I haven’t heard anything from them. They are a small company–likely they’re trying to determine if there are enough sales to justify the purchase of new boards/parts. I hope they survive–the product is amazing and it’s a fun kit to build.

  2. The Professor

    I guess I’m hardcore too. As I rule I listen to everything online via my SSTRAN as well. I love that thing. Who needs bluetooth when have beloved AM radios around the house? And like you, the sound of amplitude modulation fits me just fine.

      1. Dan

        As you should, Thomas! You should be proud of your “hardcoreness (is that a word?)” which has led you to share with us all the great news and information on the SWLing Post and blog. The best in the known universe, as far as I am concerned! Appreciate all you have done and continue to do for those of us who love radio!

  3. Kris Partridge

    Like you Thomas I wake up to and go to sleep to the 05h20 and 00h48 Shipping forcasts, but not necessarily the same day..!
    Best wishes to you and your readership from here in London, where I’m working bringing the arrival of the New Year 2018 to listeners and viewers.
    And yes, Big Ben will at Midnight ring in 2018, afterwards returning to silence while renovation work continues on the Elizabeth Tower, formerly know as the Clock Tower.
    Happy 2018 de G8AUU


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