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M.V. Ross Revenge

 

Ship details: The Ross Revenge, formally the Freyr, was built in 1960/1961 by AG Weser Werk, Seebeck, Bremerhaven, West Germany, as a side trawler, the ship was 223 feet 4 inches in length, 34 feet 1 inch wide and of 978.48 tonnage (gross). 

Until August 1963 the ship was owned by the Icelandic company Isbjorninn. Then the Freyr was sold to the Ross Trawlers Ltd. / Ross Fisheries and renamed Revenge, GY 718 (home harbour Grimsby, U.K.). At this time Ross Fisheries had three groups of ships: The Bird Class (Ross Eagle, Ross Falcon and Ross Hawk), the Cat Class (Ross Tiger, Ross Puma and Ross Panther) and the K Class (Ross Kelvin, Ross Kashmir and Ross Kelly).  From 1969 to 1979 the Ross Revenge was part of the B.U.T. (British United Trawlers). The ship was involved in the Icelandic cod war of 1st September 1972 to 1st June 1976. The Ross was the world's largest conventional trawler. On arrival at Grimsby the Ross Group renamed her Ross Revenge. She holds the World Record for the biggest catch, in 1976 she landed a catch of 3,000 kits of Icelandic cod at Grimsby which sold for a world record price of £75,597. However due to extended limits, dwindling catches, quotas and foreign imports it was becoming uneconomic to use such a large trawler. From 1979 to 1981 the vessel served as diving support ship in the North Sea.

In 1981 the MV Ross Revenge was moored at the Cairnryan breakers yard in Rosyth, Scotland and was found to be suitable for the Caroline project. The company "Seamore" from Liechtenstein (director: Ernst Kunz from Austria) purchased the MV Ross Revenge from Silas Victor Oates (based in Guernsey) for only £ 28.500. The ship was then registered in Panama for "Grothan Steamship Lines Incorporated". Both Seamore and Grothan Steamship Lines Incorporated were companies owned (or at least strongly influenced) by Ronan O'Rahilly. 

In April 1981 the Ross Revenge was towed by the Spanish tug Aznar Jose Luis from the Cairnryan breakers yard. The vessel arrived in Solares, near Santander (Spain) five days later. In autumn 1981, work begins on converting the Ross Revenge into a radio ship. The transmitter mast was the tallest mast ever to be fitted to a ship, three hundred feet above sea level. In September three transmitters were sent to Holland from the Dallas based company Besco International. Missing paper work holds up the release of the equipment. The transmitters had previously been used by an Arkansas station. Two studios were installed, each contained two Russco turntables, a Collins cartridge machine and a Revox B77 reel to reel tape recorder which were fed into a Gates twelve input mixing panel.The transmitters were finally released and arrived in Spain. Peter Chicago installed them aboard the Ross Revenge. The main transmitter was a RCA Ampliphase Model BTA 50H (serial number 101).

In early 1982 new investors for the Caroline project are found in Canada, The main one, James Ryan was later arrested for fraud. He chained up the Ross Revenge because Ronan O'Rahilly was not doing what he wanted. On 23rd September the Ross Revenge was registered in Panama. The registration number was 9625 - Poxt, and the ships radio call sign was HP-4344. The ship was classified as a pleasure yacht. During mid May 1983, Caroline Communications obtained legal ownership of the radio ship Ross Revenge. The chains that James Ryan had put on the Ross Revenge were removed in June 1983. The ship was taken into dry dock and given a special coating of bright red protective paint. Towards the end of July 1983 the Ross Revenge was ready to set sail. On 2nd August, a small problem with the ships insurance company regarding the size of one of the lifeboats prevented the ship from sailing.

Two days later at 15:00 hours the Ross Revenge set sail under the guidance of Captain Martin Eve. Problems with the ships engine forced the ship to be towed to the anchorage. On 8th August the Ross Revenge anchored in the Kentish Knock. On the next day, a short early morning test was made on 963 Khz. Later on the 9th August the Ross Revenge moved anchorage to the Knock John Deep.

On 20th January 1984 the Ross Revenge lost her anchor and drifted south onto a sand bank two miles inside British Territorial waters, broadcasts ceased. Two days later the vessel returned to her anchorage, broadcasts resume. During a force twelve storm on 3rd March the Ross Revenge dragged her emergency anchor. On the day the Laser ship Communicator provided the still drifting Caroline crew a secure anchor, so that the two ships would not come to any harm (they were anchored about a quarter of a mile apart). Work on the anchor system went on all night. On 5th March the new anchor system was fully installed.

On 6th January 1985 the ship's engine was started, and could be heard when the microphone was open, but no announcement made about it. 20:00 Caroline went off air. The Ross Revenge had lost its anchor in a force ten storm. At 20:25 hours Caroline contacted Walton coast guard, and requested assistance. The lifeboat had attended the British Rail passenger ferry "Speedlink Vanguard" and stood by the Ross Revenge by 24:00 hours. Although off air because of the storms, Laser 558 crew were able to assist the Caroline crew by giving readings from their navigational equipment. On 7th January Caroline had returned to her anchorage. On 18th January a new anchor system had been fitted.

On 9th August 1985 it was announced that an official vessel was anchored one hundred and fifty yards from the Ross Revenge (day one of "Eurosiege"). On 3rd September at 24:00 hours the Dioptric Surveyor departed due to a force nine storm. Shortly afterwards the Dutch Navy minesweeper Makkum circled the Communicator then anchored near the Ross Revenge. On 14th December, after one hundred and twenty-six days, Eurosiege ends.

On 31st January 1986 force nine storms hit the Ross Revenge and she lost her anchor. At 02:36 hours the 558 Khz transmitter left the air abruptly. Lifeboats from Sheerness and Margate went out after the Department of Trade and Industries made it known to tug operators that they would be prosecuted if they helped the Ross Revenge. By midday the spare anchor had been put down. At 15:30 hours the 558 Khz transmitter was back on air, broadcasting from close to her old anchorage, but they stopped broadcasting again at 16:05 hours. The Sheerness and Margate life boats stood by the Ross Revenge. On 7th February, the Ross Revenge was again adrift. Two days later, the drifting problems had been resolved. On 12th January 1987 Panama withdrew the ships registration with resolution No. 604 - 04 - 04 ALCN due to violations of the radio communication regulations.

On 10th June 1987 Caroline closed down at 07:00 for what was called "maintenance", in fact the Ross Revenge sailed out of the Knock Deep to a new position near the South Falls Head. The reason for this was the forthcoming Territorial Sea Act that would extend the British territorial waters from three to twelve miles. At 16:54 hours broadcasts resumed and it was announced that the Ross Revenge had moved to the South Falls Head.

Very rough weather was battering the Ross Revenge on November 20th, the ship started to list at about twenty-five degrees. On 25th November force eight storms hit the ship and Caroline left the air abruptly at 02:51 hours. The three-hundred foot mast broke at its base and collapsed into the sea. One of the aerial feeders had broke. Shortly after this the ship was hit by an enormous wave, making it roll to 55 degrees, this was directly followed by all the guy wires on one side of the mast snapping and the aerial mast collapsed. Very little damage was caused to the ship. The next day a tender went out to the ship with enough parts for a makeshift aerial, which was hung between the front mast and the funnel. On 27th January 1988 a new rear mast had been built up, but had to be taken down for some adjustments. Royal Navy divers were seen near to the Ross Revenge.

On 28th March 1988 the anchor chain broke, but due to the calm sea was not noticed until the navigation equipment was checked, they had drifted one and a half miles. On 4th April Caroline was off air all day. Force eight storm dragged the Ross Revenge twenty miles south, until she landed on a sandbank. A tug was called out which towed the ship to the North Falls. During the next day the ship´s position was given as being anchored in the North Falls and not the South Falls.
On April 10th the ship's position was once again given as the South Falls. On 7th April a tender took out a new telescopic aerial system to replace the Canadian Valcon mast. A provisional certificate of navigation for the Ross Revenge was supposedly issued on 23rd June. But there were reasons to assume that the certificate was forged.

From the start in 1983, little boats operating from the English coast brought newspapers, disks, crew members and DJ's to the MV Ross Revenge. For delivering diesel oil, the Zeemeeuw from Nieuwpoort in Belgium was hired from 1984. This vessel brought 8.000 litres of diesel oil per week plus food and crew members to the Ross. From the days of "Euroseige" in 1985, the risk for the Zeemeeuw's skipper was too high. The Radio Monique organisation decided to purchase the vessel "Vier Gebroeders" from Arnemuiden which was renamed Windy. The boat was rebuilt in Brouwershaven and fitted with diesel and water tanks. Dunkerque in France was chosen as its home harbour because of the smalller distance to the Ross and as the French authorities weren't that much interested in offshore radio ships. The Windy was registered in Honduras as a commercial ship. You could deliver 20.000 litres of diesel oil per trip. But the Windy wasn't that save boat as one had expected. Therefore the Monique organisation found the Poolster from Urk (Ntherlands) which then operated from Niewpoort (Belgium). In 1987 they chose for the bigger Bellatrix operating from Dunkerque again. This vessel had 30 sleeping cabins and could deliver 25.000 litres of diesel oil.

On 6th November 1988 two new aerial masts were taken out to the Ross Revenge. On 4th January 1989 were taken aboard to give the ship as much stability as possible while erecting the new transmitter masts. On 12th February the front mast had been rebuilt bar one section, and the shortwave aerial had been restored. The work on the two new masts continued until May. On 19th August 1989 armed representatives of the Dutch Government boarded the Ross Revenge. The Volans, a Dutch Water Police tug, contained a boarding party of about thirty armed men, including Dutch, British, French and Belgian officials. The boarding party removed studio equipment, records and tapes. The aerial array was taken down while parts of the transmitter were removed while other parts were smashed with sledgehammers.

At the end of November, the Ross Revenge suffered a power failure, which resulted in the ship being unlit for several nights. Trinity House (the UK's maritime authority) warned the station that the ship must be lit during the hours of darkness, to comply with maritime regulations. The Ross Revenge was very low on fuel, the main generators had failed resulting from non-use since the beginning of November. A small petrol generator was being used to power the navigational lighting and internal lighting and power. During force nine storms on 10th December the Ross Revenge suffered another power failure, the small petrol generator had been throw around the deck, and the supplies of petrol had been washed over the side by waves. The crew called the station office who in turn called the Dover Coast guard. The coast guard contacted the ship and said there would be difficulties in getting over the sandbanks in the force nine storm, a helicopter was sent out at 23:00 hours. By 23:45 hours all the crew had been removed from the Ross Revenge. The next day the crew from the Trinity house vessel Patricia boarded the Ross Revenge, checked the stores and general condition of the ship and then left. By dawn Dover coast guard were reporting that the Ross Revenge was abandoned. North Foreland Radio and other coastal stations issued hourly reports warning shipping vessels that the Ross Revenge was unmanned and unlit. On 12th December Peter Chicago (the station's main engineer) and DJ Rico headed out towards the Ross Revenge in a small fishing boat. The Ross Revenge could be seen on the fishing vessels radar, but due to storm force winds whipping the sea into enormous waves the Ross Revenge could not bee seen visually. After two hours of trying to find the Ross Revenge the attempt had to be given up as both Peter and Rico were suffering the effects the weather and exhaustion. At 23:00 hours the fishing boat headed back to land. Two days later another boarding attempt was made, and at about 11:00 hours Peter Chicago regained control of the Ross Revenge. He was joined by Tony Collis, who had advised Chicago of rumours of foreign tugs on their way to claim the Ross Revenge for salvage.

On 19th November 1991 storms built up across Europe, very high seas with north easterly winds were experienced by the crew of the Ross Revenge. By the early hours of the next morning force ten storms were battering the Ross Revenge, and eventually the main anchoring system broke. Dover coast guard asked other sea traffic to confirm that the ship they were tracking was the Ross Revenge. At 03:50 hours the Ross Revenge grounded on the Goodwin Sands. The crew contacted Dover coast guard and a helicopter was sent from RAF Manston, 04:45 hours the Dover tug Dextrous was on her way. At 05:35 hours the crew of the Ross Revenge made contact with Ramsgate lifeboat, which had also been sent by Dover coast guard. At 06:58 hours the lifeboat became stuck on the Goodwin Sands, her crew managed to free her. At 06:57 hours RAF Manston Sea King helicopter number 166 took the crew of the Ross Revenge off the ship. On 21st November 1991 the Dextrous managed to get lines on the Ross Revenge and successfully pulled the Ross Revenge off the Goodwin Sands. The Ross Revenge was then towed back to the Eastern Docks at Dover.

With the Ross Revenge detained in Dover harbour repair work was carried out. In October 1993 the Ross Revenge was anchored off Bradwell in the River Blackwater in Essex, within sight of the Bradwell nuclear power station (latitude 51° 44" North, Longitude 0° 52" East). In August 1995 the Ross Revenge was towed to Clacton on Sea. In Sptember the vessel was moored near Southend on Sea and in the middle of that month it was moored at the end of Southend Pier. On 25th September the Ross Revenge was towed from Southend to the Thames Quay, West India Docks in Docklands, London by the tugs Horton and Warrior. In February 1996 the ship was towed from South quay, Docklands towards Ailsa Perth Marine's shipyard at Chatham, Kent and put into dry dock. In August 1997 the MV Ross Revenge was moved to Queenbourgh, Isle of Sheppey, by the tugs Lady Morag and Lady Brenda. On 21st June 1999 the ship was towed to Southend-on-Sea Pier. The ship left Southend on September 28th under tow from the tug Horton and is now moored on the River Medway in Kent at ship berth No. 24.

On Christmas Eve 1999, the MV Ross Revenge, still anchored in the River Medway, broke its moorings during high winds and ran aground on a sandbank. Two tugs were radioed by another ship moored nearby and managed to pull the Ross Revenge off the bank and tow it into Sheerness harbour.  The two people on board were both unhurt. Although the ship was not badly damaged, the salvage fees were huge. On January 8th 2000 the vessel was moved back onto the moorings at Queenbourgh. From July 2003 the Ross Revenge was moored on the River Medway at Strood/Rochester, just downstream from Rochester Bridge. On July 30th 2004, the ship was towed to the Port of Tilbury in Essex where it is berthed today.

Taken from the Radio Caroline website:

Built: 1960 in Bremerhaven
Name: Originally the ship was christened the M.V. Freyr, whilst it was owned by an Icelandic Fishing company, then it was sold to Ross Fisheries UK, and renamed the M.V. Ross Revenge.
Standard Fishing Trips: Archangel
Spitzbergen
Murmansk
West & North Greenland
Duration of Fishing Voyages: 28 Days
Turn around Time: 36 hours in port
Usual Catch: Up to 4000 'kits' of Fish.

* A 'kit' is a standard size tray containing 10 stone, or 160 lbs of Fish. So 4000 kits is about 300 tons.

Brief History: The Ross Revenge, along with all of the UK's long range fishing fleet was left without work when the UK capitulated in the UK - Iceland Cod War.

Partially converted to a Salvage Vessel, the Ross Revenge was taken to Rosyth in Scotland to be scrapped, but was purchased at the eleventh hour by Radio Caroline.

Length: 230 ft (approx)
Beam: 38 ft

* The Beam is the Width of the ship.

Draught: 16 - 18 ft

* The draught is the part of the ship below the water.

Air Draught: 310 ft with original mast, 110 ft with the replacement masts.

The Antenna mast on the Ross Revenge was the tallest mast ever erected on any ship. The Guinness Book of Records refused to acknowledge this record, on the grounds that Radio Caroline was an illegal organisation.

Capacity: 200 tons (Diesel Fuel)
200 tons (Fresh water)
Service Area: Any Sea or Ocean in any weather, anywhere in the world.
Range: 12,000 nautical miles
Speed: 12 knots (Cruising)
16.5 knots (Maximum)
4 knots (emergency electric propulsion)
Fuel Consumption: 7 tons (1575 gallons) per day (maximum speed)
3 tons (675 gallons) per day (economical cruising speed)
Gross Tonnage: 963 tons
Accomodation: 70 people when Fishing
20 people now
Engine: Verkspoor 10 Cylinder, twin turbocharged Marine Diesel; Maximum Speed, 200 RPM; idling speed, 50 RPM; Maximum Power, 2400 HP.
Flywheel: Vulcan Fluid Flywheel coupling to Variable Pitch Propeller
Heating: Diesel powered Central Heating System for accomodation and crew areas and engine room.

Also a Diesel Steam Boiler with pipes to the bow for ice breaking.

Extinguisher System: Pressurised inert gas.
Transmitting Equipment: One 50 KW RCA Ampliphase AM Broadcast Transmitter.

Two 10 KW RCA AM Broadcast Transmitters, one of which is converted for Shortwave transmission.

Two 1KW FM Transmitters, not as yet installed.

Oban Optimod Audio Processing to Transmitters.

Generators: Three Generators producing 850 KVA for Broadcasting:
Two 6 Cylinder turbocharged MAN 175 KVA AC Generators

One V12 Twin Turbocharged MAN 500 KVA AC Generator

And one 4 Cylinder Perkins 20 KVA Generator for emergency standby.

Three Generators producing 530 KVA for the Ships power:
Two 6 Cylinder Deutz 250 KVA DC Generators

One 3 cylinder MWM 30 KVA DC Generator

Two emergency generators on deck in case of flooding or other blockage causing inaccessibility to the lower decks.
One 2 Cylinder Lister 5 KVA Generator

One 6 Cylinder P6 Perkins KVA AC Generator

Total Generating Capacity: 1435 KVA (Maximum)
1380 KVA (Standard)
55 KVA (Emergency)
Longest Time at sea: 3013 consecutive days

August 1983 to November 1991. Almost 8 years at sea.

 

Offshore radio station: Radio Caroline from 9th August 1983 (first tests) to 6th November 1990 (including the following temporary station names or  programme parts: Caroline 319/963, Caroline 576, Caroline 585, Caroline 558, Caroline 819, Jamming 963, Viewpoint 963/819, Caroline Overdrive, The 819 Overnight Alternative), Radio Monique International from 16th December 1984 to 24th November 1987, World Mission Radio from 6th March 1988 to 18th August 1989, Radio 558 from 9th July 1988 to 4th November 1988, Radio 819 from 30th May to June 7th 1988 and from 5th November 1988 to 19th August 1989

RSLs: Radio Caroline (Dover from 7th April to 4th May 1992; from Dover to Chatham from 22nd August to 7th September 1992; South East Boat Show in Burnham-on-Crouch from 16th May to 12th June 1994; River Blackwater, Bradwell, from 10th December 1994 to 6th January 1995; Clacton-on-Sea from 6th August to 3rd September 1995; South Quay, Canary Wharf, London, from 6th October to 3rd November 1995; between Sun Pier and Ship Pier in Rochester/Chatham town centre from 30th May to 27th June 1996, Queenborough, Isle of Sheppey from 9th August to 31st August 1997, Queenborough, Isle of Sheppey from June 14th till July 11th 1998, Southend-onSea from July 26th to August 22nd 1999, Tilbury from 7th August to 3rd September 2004), Radio Atlantis (Queenborough, Isle of Sheppey from 19th December 1998 to 8th January 1999)

Location: International waters in the Thames Estuary (Knock John Deep). From June 1987 near the South Falls Head, around 14 miles North West of Margate [51 degrees 27 minutes 23 seconds North, 01 degrees 48 minutes 49 seconds East]. Nowadays the vessel is anchored in the Port of Tilbury (UK).