In 1859 a terrible storm off the coast of Anglesey in England led to the deaths of 800 people and the sinking of 133 ships, including the clipper Royal Charter; on which alone 450 lives were lost. The British Admiralty soon introduced a weather warning service, initially using the telegraph service. The forecast continues to this day on BBC radio, broadcast four times daily. It is the longest running continuous weather forecast in the world.
The waters around the islands of Great Britain and Ireland are split into 31 named areas: 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.
Let’s take a closer look at three of them!
Dogger is a small shallow area in the North Sea, named after Medieval Dutch fishing boats called “doggers”. The sandbank on the ocean floor is all that remains of a land bridge now named “Doggerland”, which connected Britain to mainland Europe during the last Ice Age, ten thousand years ago. Over the years vessels have dredged up bones of deer, woolly mammoths, lions, even Neanderthals; as well as Neolithic flint and stone tools.
Rockall is an area 187 miles to the west of Scotland which features the granite islet for which it is named. The UK government claims sovereignty over the uninhabitable rock; Ireland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands do not recognise this claim, mostly because of any potential oil discoveries there may be in the future. The islet also gives its name to the Rockall Trough, an area of deep water rich with cold-water corals. Fun facts: prominent underwater features are named after Middle Earth place names, such as the “Rohan Seamount” and “Fangorn Bank”; and to describe someplace as having “Rockall” is to say that it is utterly empty.
FitzRoy is a large area to the west of France, bumping into the very tip of Spain. It is named after Vice-Admiral FitzRoy, Britain’s first professional weatherman, and the founder of the forecast itself. He was also the captain of the HMS Beagle during its survey mission of 1831-36. The naturalist he took with him was 22-year-old Charles Darwin.
That concludes today’s geographical lesson. Have a moderate or fair, bordering on good, day everyone!