26th March 1923. For those in Peril on the Sea.
A daily weather forecast began Today in 1923, on the newly created BBC National Radio Programme.
The Radio Shipping Forecast started in the same decade, with its litany of sea-areas: Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire, Cromarty, Forth…
It has, over the years, acquired a cult status, for many far removed from the sea, particularly for its soporific effect at night-time, being accompanied, as it is, by Ronald Binge’s tune Sailing By.
The Irish Sea area, began life in 1924 as Mersey, renamed in 1949 and borders Lundy to the south. Rockall was introduced in 1949 and Fisher in 1955, when Dogger was split into two.
At Noon on 3rd February 2002, the area off north-west Spain known to shipping forecasts as Finisterre, was changed to FitzRoy, after the 19th century admiral, Captain of Darwin’s Beagle and the first professional weatherman.
He later invented of the FitzRoy barometer and became Head of the first Meteorological Department of the Board of Trade. He had taken over from Captain Pringle Stokes, who had shot himself in the Straits of Magellan on August 2nd 1828.
At that time we took a casual approach to weather and we nearly weren’t represented at the 1853 Maritime Conference convened in Brussels by Lt. Matthew Maury of the US Navy, to establish, ‘a uniform system of meteorological observation at sea.’
It was only after lobbying by James Glaisher of the Meteorological Society and vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy, along with a speech in Parliament by Lord Wrottesley, that the government formed a Representation to attend.
It was after FitzRoy had seen the loss of the Royal Charter carrying 400 passengers and gold bullion off the Island of Anglesey, North Wales, on the 26th October 1859, that FitzRoy said the disaster could have been averted if the storm could have been predicted.
In the subsequent inquiry the President of the Board of Trade was advised that his Meteorological Department be instructed to make use of the new electric telegraph to warn of storms in British coastal waters.(1)
It was in 1911 that the ‘Met Office’ began issuing marine warnings by radio transmission, only to be interrupted by two world wars.
Britain’s obsession with the weather is due to the fact that the climate is chaotic and difficult to predict as surrounded by sea, it lies at the boundary of two systems: the North Atlantic Maritime which is cool, humid and overcast with much rain and the Eurasian Continental System which is dry, hot and sunny.
In some years either one dominates. The outcome is determined largely by the position of the North Atlantic Jet Stream which separates the Arctic from tropical air and is prone to wobbles.
In the meantime daily we hear: Humber, Thames, Dover…Rockall. Malin, Hebrides…zzz zzz zzz.
(1) The first official gale warnings were inaugurated in June 1860.
Francis Galton, the Quaker cousin of Charles Darwin was to make a contribution to meteorology and coined the term ‘anti-cyclone’ for the high pressure system.
Ref: bbc.co.uk/news/Last time Finisterre was used. February 2002.
Pic Ref: Sciencemusings.com/googleimages.