Tuesday, 2 August 2011

A Very British Topic

One hundred and fifty years ago today, the Times published the first ‘weather forecast’. It was prepared by Admiral Robert Fitzroy, who had been Darwin’s Captain on The Beagle. And it was actually accurate! The BBC has an informative item about the forecasts here

adml fitzroy

Here’s Fitzroy in naval uniform. Sadly he was prone to depression – and in the end felt somehow responsible for the fact that people had begun to accept Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, and  deny that God had created the world. He committed suicide in a state of despair.

But he is remembered for his weather forecasts, and in 2002, the Meterological Office decided to rename one of the areas named in the shipping forecast ‘FitzRoy’ after him, as he was the first professional weatherman and founder of the Met Office in 1853. Finisterre - deriving from the Spanish 'finis terre', meaning the end of the earth - is also used by Spain for a different area of sea and they’d asked Britain to come up with a new name.

fitzroy storm coneFitzroy’s memorial in South Norwood bears an engraving of a naval storm cone, and some apposite verses from the book of Ecclesiastes.

[I believe a storm cone is a canvas cone hoisted on board ship to warn of high winds – perhaps Jane and Chris can confirm this for me?]

The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits


  1. How do you do this, woman?? How do you run an HBC with incredibly intricate craft, learn your lines and still run your one woman campaign to educate the nations? I haven't even washed tonight's dishes yet...

  2. Yes, a storm cone was a warning device for high winds!
    I haven't heard the shipping forecast in over twenty years. We used to recite the areas for fun.....now there is another one to learn!
    Jane x


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