The Shipping Forecast: A Miscellany
Nic Compton (BBC Books, £9.99)
THE SHIPPING FORECASTÑ that nightly clockwise recitation of the sea areas around the British Isles (plus coastal stations/inshore waters)ñis as embedded in the national psyche as the chimes of Big Ben. Both have been broadcast since the early days of radio, in 1924.
Now, Nic Compton has written its history: a neat book, which could be easily slipped into a Christmas stocking and is nicely designed as a series of separate yarns and instructive figures. Mr Compton is better equipped than most of us, who depend on the Forecast (broadcast daily at 12.48am and 5.20am) for reassurance as we lie snug abed. ÔI am stormbound in northern Spain on an old wooden sloop,’ is his opening sentence and the dedicatee, his father, is a former Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander.
The Forecast was born of urgent need: an estimated 6,000 ships have been wrecked along the Cornish coastline. The first to coin the term Ôweather forecast’ was ViceAdmiral Robert Fitzroy, captain of Darwin’s ship the Beagle. His predictions appeared daily in The Times from 1861.
In 2002, the BBC renamed Finisterre Fitzroy in his honour, the only shipping-forecast area named after a person. The others are named after sandbanks (six, including Dogger, Fisher and Bailey), estuaries (six), towns (Dover and Plymouth) and islands (10, with the Norwegian island Utsira divided north and south). Originally, there were 14 sea areas; greater precision means that there are 31 today. I can recommended this book warmly to addicted night owls. John Mcewen