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The Thames Estuary

From the Air

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Aerial photographs taken in 1985 by Jon Bird

Caroline 199 Bell

A seasonal update with a little snow & a few bells

Police boat makes for Ross Revenge

Radio Caroline vessel - Ross Revenge in the Knock Deep

Police boat approacing Ross Revenge

The mid-1980's was a period when Radio Caroline faced it's first real competition since the 1970's

Back then Radio Northsea, Veronica, Atlantis, & the fledgling 192, Capital & Mi-Amigo were all competing for listeners

Caroline Bell Caroline Bell

Ding Ding wake up time, Radio Caroline had had stiff competition in 1964 with the arrival of the Radio London or Big L, nothing to do with the station masquerading as Big L today

Radio London was a slick Top 40 station based on the proven WABC American Dallas formula, Radio London even had re sung PAMS Jingles

Caroline was forced to rethink her music, programming & imaging as Big L cleaned up & was by all intents & purposes the number 1 Offshore Pop Pirate of the 60's

Police boat passes Ross Revenge

Blown out of the water again, history repeated itself in the mid-1980's when Laser 558 arrived with its tight & highly formatted Hot Hit programming

Ross Revenge port side Ross Revenge stern

The output on 576Khz wavered with crew changes, musically it was a mishmash of the old LA (Loving Awareness) album track philosophy with a scattering of Top 40 so Caroline struggled to find identity & listeners

Ross Revenge port side

Ronan wanted to compete with Laser but feared a mutiny from the 70's Caroline stalwart's still aboard

Ross Revenge starboardt side

An official boat buzzes the ships before making back to Essex

Luckily the daytime output of the 50kW RCA TX & studio space had been contracted to the Dutch Radio Monique

Ross Revenge starboardt side distant Ross Revenge port side distant

Radio Caroline was kept buoyant & survived almost entirely from these proceeds

Ross Revenge port side distant Ross Revenge starboard side full

Supplying the ships was a challenge

Bulky items, fuel & water generally came from Holland & the Benelux countries

Ross Revenge starboard side full

Whilst day to day supplies & often crew came out of Ramsgate, Whitstable, Sheerness & backwaters of the Essex coast

Ross Revenge & Communicator distant

Ross Revenge with the Laser ship in the distance

Communicator starboard side full

Laser 558's - MV Communicator

Communicator starboard quarter stern Communicator starboard half stern full

Laser 558 though was to get too big for it's own sea boots

Gaining a massive audience was one thing revenue quite another

Communicator starboard full

Would be advertisers were scared off by visits from authorities, even roadshows weren't immune

The Dioptric Surveyor anchored in the immediate waters, she'd been chartered to starve out the Pirates, more specifically targeting Laser 558 as on-air jocks mercilessly taunted the Department of Trade & Industry

The blockade called Eurosiege silenced the station

When Laser closed Caroline moved to 558Khz, if as everyone's said it was a better channel why then hadn't it been selected in 1983?

Trading on a name, but why?

There's no doubt Caroline grabbed a bilge full of attention as Britain's first Offshore Station, there are many conflicting views about the Pirate's best period, what is certain is that to this day others have wanted to adopt the brand

Caroline fragmented after the sea act of 1990's, losing her anchor she'd floundered on the notorious Goodwin Sands. Towed into Dover she operated a restricted licence broadcast on 88 Mhz FM from the historic Granville Dock

The ship was then towed to the River Blackwater to anchor off Bradwell Marina, Essex then onto & London's Docklands, & later the pier head at Southend, Essex making short term broadcasts from these locations

In conjunction a satellite service was launched until recently based at the Television Studios, Vintners Park, Maidstone now emanating from a private residence

Caroline Holland Logo Caroline Holland Bell Logo

Several low powered transmitters both in the UK & overseas relay Radio Caroline. In Staffordshire Radio Caroline North has a satellite relay & it's own evening & weekend programmes on 87.8 MHz FM

In the 1998 Holland launched a Dutch Radio Caroline

Caroline 199 Yellow Blue Bell Caroline 199 White Blue Bell Caroline 199 Yellow Blue Bell

Bob Noakes was a partner with Ruud Poeze in the short lived station called the Bells 199 which made a brief appearance in Holland

Radio Seagull Logo

In 2001 another Dutch team were granted 3,000,000 cable connections but we needed to supply 24/7 programming. Unfortunately Caroline was then only on during the weekend. So gaps were filled by Radio Caroline Holland, as airtime from England increased it was mixed with sub leasers which the Dutch Radio Authority didn't like

The name change in Holland came about as it proved to it being impossible to come up with the necessary money to continue with cable. The Dutch didn't go bankrupt but stopped broadcasting & the legal ties between Caroline were severed. Thereafter a new entity began called Radio Seagull which operates on 1602 Khz

Radio Seagull Lightship Jenni Baynton

Radio Seagull Lightship Jenni Baynton in Harlingen Harbour pictured by Dave Foster

Caroline South Logo

Radio Caroline South came on with an in dependant Southern European service, providing weekend programmes & an FM relay of Radio Caroline's satellite output for the French & Italian Riviera's

Trawler Rivero on River Medway

Now in December 2007 it's said that an old Scottish trawler the Rivero moored on the River Medway might become another Radio Caroline

Caroline 1964 sticker Bell

And more bells another Radio Caroline North may appear. Maybe but unlikely from the Ross Revenge or another ship currently being surveyed

The station would moor off the Isle-of-Man taking over from the aborted long-wave project that's been years in planning

4/12/07 - Its certainly not abandoned by any stretch of the imagination. Although fair to say that Iwalked out on it a year ago, due simply to frustration at the Board being unable to agree to the major investment terms, & needing to go and earn some money! - Paul Rusling

The bottom line is that Caroline was first & whilst maybe not financially successful after 1967 she's always flown the flag of freedom

The question is why mimic Radio Caroline when it's so easy to do something original?

A names a name which now means precious outside the radio fraternity

Grateful thanks to Jon Bird for the excellent photographs

Also to Dave Foster, Sietse Brouwer, Simon Cowel & Jim Burton for their contributions & input to this feature

Jon Bird Pix Logo

Jon Bird is a long time talented artist from Whitstable

Jon Bird Card

His colourful work is fairly priced & unique bringing a vibrancy to any setting

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