Celebrating the shipping forecast - Calling all ships

The fourth anniversary of Seamus Heaney’s death falls next Wednesday but the service he celebrated in The Shipping Forecast is celebrating 150 years of saving lives.

“Dogger, Rockall, Malin, Irish Sea: Green, swift upsurges, North Atlantic flux Conjured by that strong gale-warning voice, Collapse into a sibilant penumbra ...” go the opening lines of his poem marking a service that is as important today as it was when it was established in 1867.

The radio cadences of Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire, through Shannon, Rockall and Malin can stir the soul, especially on an Atlantic island.

On a good day, when the imagination is sharp, you can feel the salt on your face as you listen. These forecasts, like this week’s floods in Co Donegal, remind us too that we are but bit players in a far grander epic.

The forecast is 93% accurate and the forecast for inshore waters at 97% is close enough to perfect.

Wind direction is not always as easy to get right as wind speed but those whose lives have been saved by heeding weather forecast warnings over the last 150 years would not quibble.


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