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article imageBritain's poetic shipping forecast turns 150

By AFP     Aug 24, 2017 in World

A weather forecast for sailors around British waters, which became an iconic radio broadcast that inspired poets and singers with its exotic names, celebrated its 150th anniversary on Thursday.

The Shipping Forecast was first transmitted by telegraph and then by the BBC starting in the 1920s when it became a daily fixture for listeners.

Sea areas with names such as "Viking", "Dogger", and "Fastnet" have helped create a cult following for the broadcast even though modern seamen now rely on far more sophisticated forecasting technology.

The bulletin, which is issued four times a day, also inspired songs by Blur, Radiohead and the Prodigy and has been read out by famous figures including comedian Stephen Fry and playwright Alan Bennett.

Poet Carol Ann Duffy wrote a poem about it entitled "Prayer".

The Shipping Forecast has also inspired a 2016 book of the same name, celebrating the broadcast for inspiring imaginations worldwide.

Publisher Penguin also credits the weather forecast with "lulling the nation's insomniacs to sleep" for decades.

Set up as a public service in 1867, it is billed as the longest continuous weather forecast in the world, providing predictions by the Met Office on expected wind speeds, sea state, weather and visibility.

The whole report cannot be more than 380 words long.

The service was set up after a storm off North Wales in 1859 that led to the death of 800 people and the loss of 133 ships, the Met Office said.

It was briefly interrupted by the BBC during World War II for fear it would help German forces but was still disseminated to British ships by the Royal Navy.

Peter Dawes from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution said it was "a vital tool in helping people make critical safety decisions".

Captain Robert Pedre, commanding officer of HMS Ocean, an amphibious assault ship, said he still listened to it even though "the complexity of operations today means we need far greater detail".

Inmarsat, one of the world's leading providers of satellite communications, congratulated the forecast on Twitter: "Happy Birthday & thank you for keeping ships safe at sea for 150 years".

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