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Pirate Radio Ship Redux: Radio Caroline Returns, Radio Veronica, Northsea Special Event Set


The renegade Radio Caroline, which entertained rock ‘n’ roll fans in the UK and Europe from the 1960s until the 1990s from offshore shipboard transmitters and studios, is back on the airwaves from the River Blackwater off England’s Essex Coast using a temporary, low-power license. It has plans to obtain a permanent AM broadcasting authorization. Radio Caroline was among the first, and most famous, pirate radio ships of the era.

In a related vein, Arie Rietveld, PD0ARI, of Giessenburg, The Netherlands, has announced plans to operate special event station PD538RNI to commemorate two other pirate radio ship broadcasters from rock’s early days — Radio Veronica, which last broadcast on 538 meters (557 kHz), and Radio Northsea International (RNI). PD538RNI will operate on phone from August 28 until September 19 on 10, 20, and 40 meters. Rietveld said his love of radio stemmed from listening to Radio Veronica and RNI in the early 1970s.


“Both stations transmitted from radio ships on the North Sea and had millions of listeners,” Rietveld recounted in an article on Southgate Amateur Radio News. “Every day, good programs, fantastic DJs, nice jingles and radio tunes! The DJs became sort of family — a part of your life!” Rietveld said Radio Veronica transmitted on medium wave, while Radio Northsea International transmitted on medium wave, shortwave, and FM.

“Radio Northsea International on shortwave triggered me to listen to [shortwave] radio stations, and a new hobby was born,” he said. RNI and Radio Veronica shut down on August 31, 1974, after the Dutch government made changes in the radio regulations. Radio Veronica subsequently went legit and continues to operate. After the pirate stations went dark, Rietveld got his ham radio license. My love for radio started by listening to Radio Veronica and Radio Northsea International!” he said.

Rietveld, who enjoys operating from various locations, also occasionally operates marine/maritime mobile, and said he is on the air from PD0ARI every day.

According to Chris Arundel, G4KDX, another special event station, PA40VRON, will be on the air in late August to mark the Radio Veronica shutdown 40 years ago.

Radio Caroline, which was motivated by similar pirate radio operations on the high seas by Scandinavian and Dutch broadcasters, began operation in 1964. Named either after Caroline Kennedy or after a girlfriend of its founder, Ronan O’Rahilly, Radio Caroline transmitted on various medium-wave frequencies over the years, starting out on 1520 kHz — announced as “199 meters, since that rhymed with “Caroline.” The station ran nearly 20 kW, using linked Continental Electronics transmitters

The earlier Radio Caroline inspired a number of competing offshore pirate radio stations, and these operations eventually compelled the staid BBC to start airing more popular musical fare. Radio Caroline finally departed the airwaves as a pirate broadcaster in 1991, after losing its anchor and running aground. The story of the shipboard station was fictionalized in the movie “The Boat That Rocked,” which starred the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman. The latter-day incarnation of Radio Caroline has been a satellite and Internet broadcaster. -- Thanks to Southgate Amateur Radio News




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