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The Shipping Forecast: a Map of Britain's Splendid Isolation
The Shipping Forecast is quite possibly the most British thing ever.
The general synopsis at midday: High west Sole 1028 expected east Sole 1019 by midday tomorrow. Low southern Portugal 1010 losing its identity. The area forecasts for the next 24 hours. Viking, North Utsire: Northwesterly 4 or 5, occasionally 6 at first. Moderate or rough. Occasional rain. Good, occasionally poor.
The Shipping Forecast is quite possibly the most British thing ever. It’s quirkier than cricket, defiantly old-fashioned and ceremonial, and as reassuringly regular as Big Ben (1). Produced by the UK’s Meteorological Office, it's broadcast four times a day by BBC Radio Four.
But it is more than mere maritime meteorology. For over 90 years, the Shipping Forecast has been a punctual reminder of Britain’s island status – a declaration of geopolitical detachment expertly disguised as a weather bulletin. Splendid isolation masquerading as shifting isobars (2). And as such, one of the greatest examples of classic British understatement. If that isn’t an oxymoron.
South Utsire: Northwesterly 5 or 6. Moderate or rough. Occasional rain. Good, occasionally poor. Forties, Cromarty: Northwest 4 or 5, occasionally 6 at first. Moderate, occasionally rough in northeast Forties. Rain or drizzle, fog patches developing. Moderate or good, occasionally very poor.
Listing the weather conditions in 31 sea areas surrounding the British Isles, the Shipping Forecast is read out at 5.20 am, 12.01 pm, 5.54 pm and 00.48 am. The first and last broadcasts of the day also include reports from additional weather stations and inshore waters forecasts. The last one also includes an outlook for next-day weather across the UK itself.
Forth, Tyne, West Dogger: Westerly or northwesterly 4 or 5, occasionally 6 at first. Slight or moderate. Fair. Good. East Dogger, Fisher, German Bight: Northwesterly 5 or 6. Moderate, occasionally rough. Fair then occasional rain, fog patches later. Moderate or good, occasionally very poor later.
Much of the Forecast’s charm derives from the – literally – outlandish names of the sea areas listed in the bulletin. The names derive from sandbanks (e.g. Dogger, Bailey), estuaries (Forth, Thames, Shannon), islands or islets (Wight, Rockall, Utsire), towns (Dover), or other geographic features (e.g. Malin Head, Ireland’s northernmost point).
Humber, Thames: West or northwest 4 or 5. Slight or moderate. Mainly fair. Good. Dover, Wight, Portland, Plymouth: Variable 3 or 4. Slight. Fair. Good.
One is named FitzRoy, after the captain of HMS Beagle, Britain’s first professional weatherman and the founder of the Met Office. The southernmost region, Trafalgar is only mentioned standard in the last forecast of the day. The regions are always listed in the same order, starting north with Viking, between Scotland and Norway, and then proceeding in a roughly clockwise direction:
Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire, Forties, Cromarty, Forth, Tyne, Dogger, Fisher, German Bight, Humber, Thames, Dover, Wight, Portland, Plymouth, Biscay, Trafalgar, FitzRoy, Sole, Lundy, Fastnet, Irish Sea, Shannon, Rockall, Malin, Hebrides, Bailey, Fair Isle, Faeroes and Southeast Iceland.
Biscay: Northeast 4 or 5, increasing 6 at times. Slight or moderate. Fair. Good. Southeast Fitzroy: Northerly or northeasterly 5 or 6, occasionally 7 at first. Moderate or rough. Showers. Good.
The map shown here also lists the coastal weather stations mentioned in the Shipping Forecast:
(1) Tiree, (2) Stornoway, (3) Lerwick, (4) Fife Ness, (5) Bridlington, (6) Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic, (7) Greenwich Light Vessel Automatic, (8) Jersey, (9) Channel Light Vessel Automatic, (10) Scilly Automatic, (11) Valentia, (12) Ronaldsway, (13) Malin Head
A few others are mentioned only in the 00:48 broadcast: Boulmer, Milford Haven, Liverpool Crosby, Machrihanish Automatic, among others.
Northwest Fitzroy: Northeasterly 4 or 5 becoming variable 3 or 4. Moderate. Rain later in west. Good. Sole: Variable 3 or 4, becoming southerly 4 or 5 in west. Slight or moderate. Rain later in west. Good.
One of the Shipping Forecast’s attractions to others than fishermen and sailors is its poetic effect, the result of its very strict format and an arcane terminology, only intelligible to the initiated.
Each bulletin begins with exactly the same opening line, and follows the same structure. Preceded by gale warnings if necessary, a General Synopsis gives the position, pressure in millibars and track of pressure areas. Then follows the forecast for each of the 31 areas, sometimes with some areas grouped together if they have the same outlook. Each of these lists wind direction and strength, precipitation if applicable, and visibility (‘good’ for more than 5 nautical miles, ‘poor’ for less than 2 nm, and ‘fog’ for less than 1,000 metres). The whole thing never exceeds 370 words.
Lundy, Fastnet, Irish Sea: Westerly 4 or 5 at first in east Lundy, otherwise variable 3 or 4. Smooth or slight, occasionally moderate in Fastnet. Fair. Good. Shannon, Rockall: Southerly or southwesterly 4 or 5, occasionally 6 in west. Slight or moderate, becoming moderate or rough. Rain later in west. Mainly good.
The gap between Radio Four’s last programme of the day and the final Shipping Forecast, at 48 minutes past midnight, is plugged with as much as necessary of ‘Sailing By’, an orchestral piece by Ronald Binge, otherwise famous for his arrangements for Mantovani. The repetitive waltz helps sailors find the right frequency. For the many landlubbers tuning in to the last Shipping Forecast of the day, the cozy number signals that it’s almost time to turn in for the night.
Malin: Southwest 4 or 5. Slight or moderate. Mainly fair. Good. Hebrides: West 5 or 6, backing southwest 4 or 5. Moderate. Occasional drizzle. Good, occasionally poor.
Thousands use the day’s last forecast as a lullaby. Adding to its hypnotic, soporific effect is the fact that it’s read out at a deliberately slow pace, to allow seafarers to make notes. The strange place-names and the weird jargon give the Shipping Forecast a magical shine. And perhaps they give the thousands tucked away safe in their beds pause to think about those out at sea at that very moment, in the dark, listening to the same bulletin.
The forecast is followed by God Save the Queen, after which it’s exactly 1 am, and BBC World Service takes over.
Bailey: West backing south or southeast 5 or 6, decreasing 4 for a time. Moderate. Occasional rain. Good, occasionally poor. Fair Isle, Faeroes:West or northwest 4 or 5, occasionally 6 at first, becoming variable 3 or 4 at times later. Mainly moderate. Occasional rain, fog patches developing. Moderate or good, occasionally very poor.
The Shipping Forecast has made a huge mark on music, literature and the wider culture. It inspired songs by Jethro Tull, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Wire, Blur, Radiohead, Tears for Fears, British Sea Power, Beck and the Prodigy, among others, and it was used in the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.
Nobel-prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney wrote a sonnet called ‘The Shipping Forecast’, and British Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy mentions “the radio’s prayer” in one of her poems. The programme is used in books, films, tv series, and has been parodied countless times (once as ‘The Shopping Forecast’, listing UK supermarkets instead of sea regions).
Southeast Iceland: Cyclonic becoming easterly or southeasterly 4 or 5, increasing 6 or 7 later in west. Moderate, occasionally rough. Occasional rain. Good, occasionally poor. Trafalgar: Cyclonic 4 in southeast, otherwise northerly 5 to 7. Slight or moderate in southeast, otherwise moderate or rough. Thundery showers. Good, occasionally moderate.
Here is BBC Radio 4’s Shipping Forecast page. Quoted text is that of the Shipping Forecast issued by the Met Office at 16.25 on Monday 21 March 2016, retrievedhere from the Met Office website. Map of the sea regions by Emoscopes, found here on Wikimedia Commons.
Update 27 March 2016: changed the composer's name from Ronald "Ronnie" Biggs, whose fame derives from his participation in the Great Train Robbery. Thanks Aneel for pointing out the error!
Update 11 January 2017: Many thanks to Janos Vargha for sending in this news item about this artwork by Jane Tomlinson, awarded the John C Bartholomew Award for Thematic Mapping by the British Cartographic Society.
Strange Maps #774
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1) Even more so, since Big Ben has been silenced since 21 August 2017 for maintenance, for a period of up to four years. The bell will still chime for special events such as New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday. The hourly bell chimes will start again in 2021.
(2) Insert Brexit reference here.
A new study finds that dogs fed fresh human-grade food don't need to eat—or do their business—as much.
- Most dogs eat a diet that's primarily kibble.
- When fed a fresh-food diet, however, they don't need to consume as much.
- Dogs on fresh-food diets have healthier gut biomes.
Four diets were tested<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU5ODI1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjY0NjIxMn0._w0k-qFOC86AqmtPHJBK_i-9F5oVyVYsYtUrdvfUxWQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="1b1e4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="87937436a81c700a8ab3b1d763354843" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="960" />
Credit: AntonioDiaz/Adobe Stock<p>The researchers tested refrigerated and fresh human-grade foods against kibble, the food most dogs live on. The <a href="https://frontierpets.com.au/blogs/news/how-kibble-or-dry-dog-food-is-made" target="_blank">ingredients</a> of kibble are mashed into a dough and then extruded, forced through a die of some kind into the desired shape — think a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_extrusion" target="_blank">pasta maker</a>. The resulting pellets are sprayed with additional flavor and color.</p><p>For four weeks, researchers fed 12 beagles one of four diets:</p><ol><li>a extruded diet — Blue Buffalo Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe</li><li>a fresh refrigerated diet — Freshpet Roasted Meals Tender Chicken Recipe</li><li>a fresh diet — JustFoodforDogs Beef & Russet Potato Recipe</li><li>another fresh diet — JustFoodforDogs Chicken & White Rice Recipe.</li></ol><p>The two fresh diets contained minimally processed beef, chicken, broccoli, rice, carrots, and various food chunks in a canine casserole of sorts. </p><p>(One can't help but think how hard it would be to get finicky cats to test new diets. As if.)</p><p>Senior author <a href="https://ansc.illinois.edu/directory/ksswanso" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Kelly S. Swanson</a> of U of I's Department of Animal Sciences and the Division of Nutritional Sciences, was a bit surprised at how much better dogs did on people food than even refrigerated dog chow. "Based on past research we've conducted I'm not surprised with the results when feeding human-grade compared to an extruded dry diet," he <a href="https://aces.illinois.edu/news/feed-fido-fresh-human-grade-dog-food-scoop-less-poop" target="_blank">says</a>, adding, "However, I did not expect to see how well the human-grade fresh food performed, even compared to a fresh commercial processed brand."</p>
Tracking the effect of each diet<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU5ODI1OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3NjY1NTgyOX0.AdyMb8OEcjCD6iWYnXjToDmcnjfTSn-0-dfG96SIpUA/img.jpg?width=980" id="da892" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="880d952420679aeccd1eaf32b5339810" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="960" />
Credit: Patryk Kosmider/Adobe Stock<p>The researchers tracked the dogs' weights and analyzed the microbiota in their fecal matter.</p><p>It turned out that the dogs on kibble had to eat more to maintain their body weight. This resulted in their producing 1.5 to 2.9 times the amount of poop produced by dogs on the fresh diets.</p><p>Says Swanson, "This is consistent with a 2019 National Institute of Health study in humans that found people eating a fresh whole food diet consumed on average 500 less calories per day, and reported being more satisfied, than people eating a more processed diet."</p><p>Maybe even more interesting was the effect of fresh food on the gut biome. Though there remains much we don't yet know about microbiota, it was nonetheless the case that the microbial communities found in fresh-food poo was different.</p><p>"Because a healthy gut means a healthy mutt," says Swanson, "fecal microbial and metabolite profiles are important readouts of diet assessment. As we have shown in <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jas/article/92/9/3781/4702209#110855647" target="_blank">previous studies</a>, the fecal microbial communities of healthy dogs fed fresh diets were different than those fed kibble. These unique microbial profiles were likely due to differences in diet processing, ingredient source, and the concentration and type of dietary fibers, proteins, and fats that are known to influence what is digested by the dog and what reaches the colon for fermentation."</p>
How did kibble take over canine diets?<p>Historically, dogs ate scraps left over by humans. It has only been <a href="https://www.thefarmersdog.com/digest/the-history-of-commercial-pet-food-a-great-american-marketing-story/" target="_blank">since 1870</a>, with the arrival of the luxe Spratt's Meat Fibrine Dog Cakes—made from "the dried unsalted gelatinous parts of Prairie Beef", mmm—that commercial dog food began to take hold. Dog bone-shaped biscuits first appeared in 1907. Ken-L Ration dates from 1922. Kibble was first extruded in 1956. Pet food had become a great way to turn <a href="https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/choosing-dog-food/animal-by-products/" target="_blank">human-food waste</a> into profit.</p><p>Commercial dog food became the norm for most household canines only after a massive marketing campaign led by a group of dog-food industry lobbyists called the Pet Food Institute in 1964. Over time, for most households, dog food was what dogs ate — what else? Human food? These days more than half of U.S. dogs are <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/03/magazine/who-made-that-dog-biscuit.html" target="_blank">overweight or obese</a>, and certainly their diet is a factor.<span></span></p><p>We're not so special among animals after all. If something's healthy for us to eat—we're <em>not</em> looking at you, chocolate—maybe we should remember to share with our canine compatriots. Not from the table, though.</p>
What makes some people more likely to shiver than others?
Some people just aren't bothered by the cold, no matter how low the temperature dips. And the reason for this may be in a person's genes.
Eating veggies is good for you. Now we can stop debating how much we should eat.
- A massive new study confirms that five servings of fruit and veggies a day can lower the risk of death.
- The maximum benefit is found at two servings of fruit and three of veggies—anything more offers no extra benefit according to the researchers.
- Not all fruits and veggies are equal. Leafy greens are better for you than starchy corn and potatoes.