Furacão me, it’s breezy

I was reading The Hot Word post on the etymology of the words hurricane, typhoon and cyclone. No surprise that two of them should take their names from mythology, but what did make me stop was the way that the comments flipped straight to the pretty basic theological statement — “God Controls the weather!”

This conjured up an image of a bearded old man in flowing robes at the controls of  some super-computer randomly hitting the buttons marked ‘blizzard’, ‘drought’, ‘tornado’ and ‘that really fine drizzle that gets you wetter than proper rain’. At the same time calling for more dry-ice, the wind machine and the thunder sheet for the sound effects.

Ironic that an article that illustrates how the Greeks and Mayans believed the gods controlled the weather should be used as a platform by people to effectively argue the same point today. Hey ho. Like the cyclone, what goes around comes around.

We’ve been trying to predict the weather for a very long time. The Babylonians thought they had it nailed 2,500 years ago through a combination of cloud patterns and astrology while the Chinese developed weather lore around 300BC, about the same time that Aristotle wrote Meteorlogica. And we’ve been trying and failing to get it right ever since.

But like the rain, we persist and so here is a little weather-related nugget. On this day, 4 July 1925, at 10:30 am the BBC broadcast its first shipping forecast, mostly intended for small ships without radio telephony.

This four-times daily ritual has been around ever since, interrupting the Test Match Special commentary for listeners on long wave among other things. With all the onboard technology, it is pretty much redundant now, but you can imagine the uproar there would be if the BBC tried to drop it.

Angry letters to the Daily Mail would denounce this threat to a national treasure as an assault on our heritage by the liberal-left, with or without the connivance of Europe, putting lives at risk, albeit mostly of those not actually at sea, but tucked up in bed with a mug of cocoa.

I would have some sympathy with that view. I can’t remember the last time I heard Sailing By [crafted by the wonderfully named Ronald Binge], the tune that accompanies the last/first forecast of the day at 00:48, but I would still miss it if it wasn’t there. It reminds me of a time long past when me and Mrs P used to sail the Irish Sea.

There is a tale or two to be told about those days, but they are for another time. Instead I leave you with that soothing melody chosen by Jarvis Cocker as one of his Desert Island Discs:

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

3 comments… Add yours
  • Yorkshire Pudding 4th July 2010

    A British myth is that the weathermen (and women) always get it wrong but from my experience they are usually spot on which is testament to their computer-based understanding of past weather patterns. If The Weathermen were a political party I would vote for them. Three cheers for The Meteorological Office! Hip hip!

    Reply
  • Max 4th July 2010

    I don’t remember reports of hurricanes in the Irish Sea. Can’t wait for yours.

    Reply
  • Polly 4th July 2010

    Yorkie: I don’t think I said much, if anything, about the weatherfolk getting it wrong, although I don’t think it is quite as accurate as some believe. Pretty accurate in the short-term [ideal for sailors], but more generalised beyond a few days hence.

    Max: No hurricanes, but a few hairy moments which I will write about in time.

    Reply

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