The Shipping Forecast

Do you listen to ‘Sailing By’ as you drift off to sleep in the wee small hours of the morning? Or are you an early riser, leaving the warm comfort of your bed, listening to the Shipping Forecast as you greet a new day?

Are you a committed landlubber whose only connection with the sea is listening to the Shipping Forecast?

The Shipping Forecast is like a lullaby to many BBC radio listeners … and yet the true magic of the shipping forecast is spelled out when you’re tucked up warm and cosy in your bed, while others face the raw elements in their ships and boats.

A beacon for seafarers … Scarborough Lighthouse

How Did It Start?

‘The ships’, as the newscasters call it, has its beginnings in the Victorian era.

The very first warning service for shipping was broadcast via telegraph in 1861, introduced by Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy, who’s since had a shipping area named after him.

Today, the Shipping Forecast has a strict limit of 350 words (increased to 380 words for the 00:48hrs broadcast, the only one to include Trafalgar sea area).

And while the hypnotic words might not mean much to non-seafarers, the historic broadcast of 10th January 1993 warned of a ‘Southwest hurricane Force 12 or more’, thankfully a very rare occurrence, and one that would have been universally understood as bad news for mariners.

There is an additional broadcast at 05:20 hrs to wake you up in the morning; and if you still listen to longwave radio, there is also a broadcast at 12:01 hours and 17:54 hrs.

Two members of the Lifeboat crew watch the sunrise in Scarborough

An Island Nation

While we sometimes forget we’re an island race, the shipping forecast reminds us that we are island, in fact a collection of islands, with a proud seafaring tradition. 

During the opening ceremony of the iconic 2012 London Olympics, part of a shipping forecast was played to a global audience of millions, representing Britain’s maritime connections.

Attention all shipping …

Artistic Licence

‘The ships’ have inspired musicians and writers for decades, including The Prodigy, Blur, Kate Bush, and others.

Numerous books, poems and even films feature this legendary aspect of British broadcasting.

And it’s a chance to let your imagination run free as the poetic place names such as Cape Wrath, Gibraltar Point and Mull of Kintyre trip off the tongue, sending you into a night’s restful repose.

Sunrise in Scarborough

Your Day and the Shipping Forecast

There is something truly hypnotic about the Shipping Forecast. If you’ve not heard it before, then you’re missing out. 

It’s highly addictive and often signals the start and the end of your day … everyday.