The Shipping Forecast, produced by the Met Office on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has long been a vital source of information for sailors, but now it has also provided the inspiration for a new musical work.
Speaking to the BBC, composers Cecelia McDowall said that she had used elements of the rhythm and language found in the forecasts to create her composition. She added: “There’s something rather beguiling and mysterious about the Shipping Forecast which sounds so poetic, but at the same time is very crucial to people at sea.
The Shipping Forecast was first broadcast in 1922, but had been in existence in a number of formats before this as the Met Office provided a range of forecasts and gale warnings for mariners around the British Isles.
In fact, Admiral FitzRoy, founder of the Met Office, developed the first storm warning service, achieved by using canvas covered frames in different shapes to alert ships to dangers — these were lit up by fires at night so they could give warnings at any time. He also pioneered techniques for forecasting weather such as synoptic charts, where weather observations taken at the same time were drawn on a map to aid forecasting — a technique still used today. FitzRoy’s work laid the foundations for the Met Office’s future at the forefront of this ‘new science’.
In a video, the BBC’s Nick Higham finds out why the Shipping Forecast is such an important part of the British consciousness – helped by Met Office forecaster Steve Randall, Devon fisherman Geoff Ingram and Radio 4 announcer Carolyn Brown, and a P&O Cruises Capitan explains why it is so important to those at sea.
In the UK, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) is responsible for the provision of Maritime Safety Information (MSI) to ships at sea, which includes the broadcast of warnings and forecasts. The Met Office initiates warnings and prepares routine forecasts for dissemination on behalf of the MCA.