Shipping forecast stories

The short series of stories about the shipping forecast were originally written for the monthly competition on the Word Cloud writing community. There are three so far, but another is on its way.

The first, ‘German Bight’ is based around the Battle of Heligoland Bight, one of a series of clashes between German and British naval forces in the First World War. It was one of the first, and remains one of the least well known, overshadowed by the titanic struggles between capital ships at Jutland and Dogger Bank.

The Royal Navy had found out that light German forces made regular patrols in the Heligoland Bight area, so formed a plan to ambush the patrol. Initially, the plan seemed to be working, and the superior British force began to harry the German destroyers. The Germans had, however, called up some support of their own. Fog meant that the British were taken by surprise when several cruisers appeared on the scene. The battle became a series of sudden bursts of action as hostile ships stumbled across each other in the murk. A decision by Admiral Jellicoe to send some huge, heavily armed battle-cruisers in support finally won the day for the British. Three German light cruisers were sunk, while all the British ships made it home, although some had been very heavily shot about.

Until the 1950s, Heligoland was an area in the British shipping forecast, but its name was changed to ‘German Bight’ to avoid confusion with the similarly named zone in the German forecast. The story was inspired by wondering how veterans of the battle might have felt about one more reminder of their victory being removed.

Robert FitzRoy is generally regarded as the father of modern weather forecasting. He was also the Captain of the Beagle during the famous cruise to the Galapagos Islands when Charles Darwin began to form his theories of natural selection. However, his genius went largely unrecognised during his own lifetime, and he faced huge opposition to the measures he tried to introduce to save lives at sea. He committed suicide after his system of storm warnings was stopped. Recently, he has begun to belatedly garner some of the recognition due to him, and when the sea area Finisterre had to be renamed to avoid confusion with a sea area in the Spanish forecast, it was given the name FitzRoy in honour of the man who founded the system of weather forecasts we know today.

Dogger is based on the discovery that thousands of years ago, the large sandbank by that name in the middle of the North Sea was once land, and home to an advanced stone age civilisation. It likely drowned over a long period of time, hastened by several cataclysmic events such as a vast mudslide. Part of Dogger Bank may in future be home to one of the network of giant, offshore wind farms that harness the energy of the sea breeze.

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