MV Ross Revenge
Monday, 30th March 2009 by Ian Brown
Tied up in Tilbury Docks, we find the MV Ross Revenge, home to Radio Caroline and one of the last surviving pirate radio ships.
For many people in the UK and Western Europe in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, pirate radio was the only source of good music – an alternative to the staid and strictly controlled national stations. Radio Caroline was the most well-known, and the longest running, of the pirate stations. It operated from a succession of ships that ran aground, sank or were impounded.
The Ross Revenge started life as a fishing vessel, and spent time as a diving support ship. After being fitted with 90m high antennas (the tallest mast on any ship) it took to the North Sea and started broadcasting in 1983. The masts are vaguely visible in Live Maps, but are best seen in this Panoramio image or historic photos.
The crews and DJs survived with clandestine deliveries of supplies from small or remote ports as supporting such operations was illegal. Similarly, most advertising originated overseas.
The ship weathered the dreadful storm of October 1987, a collapse of the mast, surveillance by government vessels and even a police raid of questionable legality. Despite surviving all these difficulties, the station closed in November 1990 due to a lack of funding and supplies. A year later a storm washed the ship onto a sandbank and the remaining crew was rescued.
After salvage and several relocations, the ship now rests in Tilbury docks, with volunteers working on restoration. Radio Caroline, now a legal satellite station, occasionally still broadcasts from the studios onboard.