Radio 4 makes shipping forecast blunder

“Thames, Dover, Wight, Portland, Plymouth, Biscay: south-westerly gale eight to storm 10, occasionally violent...” The problem with this particular shipping forecast was that it warned of a tempest which took place the day before.

For almost 90 years, the forecast’s familiar rhythmic strains have been broadcast on BBC radio. But at 48 minutes past midnight on Sunday 15 November, the wrong one was read out.

The error escaped the notice of most people listening to Radio 4 at the time, the vast majority of whom would have been tucked up in bed rather than battling the high seas. But one sharp-eared listener, David Newton from Easter Ross in Scotland, realised that the forecast – which predicted storm force winds in south-westerly areas – was exactly the same as one read out 20 hours earlier.

“The storm force 11 winds forecast for south westerly areas were announced, but by this time they had clearly been and gone,” he told Radio 4’s Feedback programme last Friday. “The entire transmission was a repeat from nearly 20 hours earlier. Was I the only sad person to spot it?”

It is unclear whether the erroneous broadcast prompted any seafarers to alter their ship’s courses unnecessarily but A spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said it was extremely unlikely to have put anyone at sea in danger. Typically, fishermen do not rely on Radio 4 for weather updates, instead receiving them directly from the MCA through their vessel’s communication system.

The mistake happened when the late night radio announcer picked up the wrong email from the studio computer, which gave the previous day’s forecast. As she read it out, she even noted that it was for “05.05 on the 14th of November” despite this not tallying with the actual date or time.

David Anderson, Radio 4’s presentation editor, explained: “What went wrong is that somebody made a mistake. It was human error and a pretty bad one I am afraid to admit. The late night announcer at the end of the shift pulled out an email of what she thought was the right shipping forecast, and read it out completely unaware it was the wrong forecast. All I can say is that I am most terribly sorry we got that wrong. This was a big error on our part.”

The BBC has been broadcasting the shipping forecast since the 1920s. It is read out twice a day on Radio 4 at 5.20am and at 00.48am, with two additional broadcasts given on the long wave service at midday and just before the evening news.

This month’s error is only the second time in the history of the forecast that a mistake has been made. The other occurred about a year ago in the early morning slot – a correction was issued an hour later, during the Today programme.

The forecast’s primary role is to update those at sea on the condition of the waters around the British Isles, which are divided into 31 areas with distinctive names such as Dogger, Cromarty and Rockall. A vast amount of information – including wind speed and direction, gale warnings, rain, visibility and changes in air pressure – is given very quickly, using the same format each time. However, it has become something of a British institution over the years, and is enjoyed by a wide audience who find reassurance in its repetitive and rhythmic sentences. Mr Anderson said it had assumed a “strange, almost mythological status” among listeners, who enjoyed the “comfort factor” of hearing it as they drifted off to sleep.



HOW THE SHIPPING FORECAST HAS ENTERED MODERN CULTURE



- The band Radiohead referenced the mysterious names used in the shipping forecast in their song “In Limbo”, on the album Kid A: “Lundy, Fastnet, Irish Sea / I’ve got a message I can’t read”.

- The Irish poet Seamus Heaney wrote a sonnet called “The Shipping Forecast”, which begins: “Dogger, Rockall, Malin, Irish Sea / Green, swift upsurges, North Atlantic flux / Conjured by that strong gale-warming voice / Collapse into a sibilant penumbra.”

- The song “This Is A Low”, on Blur’s album Parklife, includes the lyrics: “On the Tyne, Forth and Cromarty / There’s a low in the high forties.” The song also contains references to the sea areas Dogger and Thames: “Hit traffic on the Dogger bank / Up the Thames to find a taxi rank.”

- Before she was Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy wrote a sonnet called “Prayer” which concludes with the lines: “Darkness outside / Inside, the radio’s prayer – Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.”

Arts and Entertainment
Above the hat of the toy gibbon, artist Mark Roscoe included a ‘ghost of a bird’ and a hidden message
art
Arts and Entertainment
Alien: Resurrection, Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder
film
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished

TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies

Arts and Entertainment
Australia's Eurovision contestant and former Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian

Eurovision 2015Australian Idol winner unveiled as representative Down Under

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable