Tag Archives: BBC Radio 4 Shipping Forecast

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!

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The demise of longwave could lead to the end of the Shipping Forecast

shipping-forecast-locations

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Erica, who writes:

“I saw this article about the demise of the Shipping Forecast on Radio 4 Longwave and thought readers might be interested:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/11892805/End-of-Shipping-Forecast-on-long-wave-radio-could-leave-sailors-high-and-dry.html

I’m not a fan of DAB radio and my bedroom radio aerial has to be positioned just so to get radio 4 FM with cclarity, so I will be disappointed if Longwave eventually gets switched off. That’s not to mention all the people–however many there may be–who don’t have easy ways to get weather info out at sea.”

Here’s an excerpt from The Telegraph:

It has kept sailors safe on the ocean waves for 90 years, becoming just as much a part of national consciousness as cricket, cups of tea and The Archers.

But the days of hearing the Shipping Forecast out on a boat may be numbered thanks to the demise of long wave technology, a veteran announcer has said.

Peter Jefferson, who read the Shipping Forecast to Radio 4 listeners for 40 years, said the “very old” transmitters which worked on long wave could soon be retired.

If that was to happen, he said, anyone more than 12 miles from the coastline would be unable to hear the shipping forecast on long wave, ending a Radio 4 tradition dating back to 1924.

Speaking at the Radio Times Festival, in Hampton Court, Mr Jefferson said the soothing tones of the Shipping Forecast would then be left to its many fans who choose to listen to it from their homes in lieu of a “sleeping pill”.

“Long wave reaches much further than FM, it’s as simple as that,” he said.
“So FM would be totally useless for shipping beyond 12 miles from land.

[…]A spokesman for the BBC said they were no firm plans to end long wave broadcasting, and no date set for when the technology could run out.

The service currently reaches as far as south-east Iceland, and is occasionally picked up as far as 3,000 miles away.

Read this full article at The Telegraph online.

Of course, I haven’t heard the Shipping Forecast on longwave since moving back to the States from the UK. Still, I would be very sad to hear the program and the longwave medium fall silent.

I would like to start adding some Shipping Forecast programs on the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive where we also curate select mediumwave and longwave recordings.  If you have the means to record episodes on longwave, please consider helping us!

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Shipping Forecast tribute

shipping-forecast-locations

Many thanks to @realmarkfahey who shares this tribute to the Shipping Forecast via Twitter:

If the embedded tweet above does not appear, click this link to listen via the web.

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Today: Choppy seas for the Shipping Forecast

Peeters_Sea_storm

Since the dawn of time, there is, there was, and there always has been…the Shipping Forecast. We set our clocks by it. Despite the complexities of our planet–war, famine, daytime television–the Shipping Forecast has been there for us.  Our steady friend amid the choppy seas of life. Our rock of Gibraltar…our security blanket.

Regardless of our diverse beliefs (or unbeliefs), it seems we all believe in the Forecast. We somehow find ourselves regularly returning to its altar, taking comfort in its soothing ministry. And why should we not? It’s been there, without fail, for ninety years.

That is…until this morning.

This morning, BBC Radio 4, who produces the Shipping Forecast experienced some technical difficulties. These, alas, led to a failure to broadcast the Forecast for the first time in, yes, ninety years.  Andy Sennit shares this article from The Guardian:

It was early-morning chaos and warnings of impending armageddon when BBC Radio 4 failed to broadcast the Shipping Forecast for the first time in more than 90 years.

The BBC radio service is something of an institution, metronomically broadcasting four forecasts a day since 1924, a routine which failed for the first time at 5.20am on Friday.

A technical glitch meant the BBC’s World Service was played in its place, a gaffe that prompted listeners to take to Twitter to voice their bewilderment.

Kirsty Connell said: “Eep. The shipping forecast didn’t get broadcast on @BBCRadio4 this morning. Isn’t that the sign of impending nuclear armageddon?”

Jordan Rowland added: “No shipping forecast? If UK submarines don’t get shipping forecast, don’t they launch nuclear attack?”

The BBC was only able to resolve the issue at 5.40am when it cut back to the Radio 4 programme. Friday morning’s Shipping Forecast eventually aired 6.40am.

[Continue reading…]

If this news has greatly unhinged you (as it has me) rest assured:  the world continues. Thus the Forecast will await us at its regularly scheduled time tomorrow morning.

(Readers, thanks for letting me wax poetic.)

Confused? If you’re wondering what the Shipping Forecast is, check out this previous post.

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