Freyr under construction
Seebeckwerft Yard Bremerhaven, 1959/60
Freyr On Sea Trial - 1960
Trawling off Iceland - 1963
Last Day in Reykjavik - 1963
Early voyage as Ross Revenge 1963
Arrival in Santander - 1981
pic by Andy Archer
Tower of Power - 1983
Mastless - 1987
Goodwin Sands - 1991
Chatham Dry Dock - 1996
Tilbury - 2004
pic by Mick Elborn
A short History of the Ross Revenge.She was built in Bremerhaven, Germany, in 1960 as one of three similar vessels and christened "Freyr", registration "RE1". Known from that time on as a "super trawler", she and her two sisters were believed to be the largest side trawlers to be built anywhere in the world. With a 2000HP main engine, vari-pitch propeller, vulcan fluid transmission coupling and many other technologies never before seen on a trawler, these ships were built to work hard. The Freyr and her sisters "Vikingur" AK100 and "Sigurnur" IS33 all went to Icelandic fishing companies. With ice breaking strengthend bows, dual sided fishing gear, immense cargo holds with a 6 metre draft and deep water long range capability these ships meant business. Some time later, a very similar fourth ship "Mai" (GK346), with a few minor alterations but a different engine was built at a different yard in Bremerhaven.
The story is that her owners found problems getting her into and out of Reykjavik harbour on all but the most favourable of tides, and just three years after she was commissioned they put her up for sale. On 3rd Sepetember 1963 she sailed to her new home port of Grimbsy on the east coast of England where her new owners Ross Fisheres renamed her "Ross Revenge", registration GY718. In her new home she became the "mother ship" of the UK's long range fishing fleet and operated on voyages of two or three weeks duration to Icelandic and Northern Arctic waters. Her formidable strength, power and agility were key factors in her ability to operate in waters as low as -20 degrees centigrade, where extensive catches of cod and herring could be found. For the next decade was making the record books for the size of loads she was bringing home - a single trip could net as much as £77,000 of fish when sold at market at a time when a new house cost £15,000. However, seeing many foreign ships depleting fish stocks around their homeland the Icelandic government started to introduce and police its territorial limits and the so called "Cod Wars" broke out. The Ross Revenge amongst many other UK ships was frequently challenged by Icelandic Navy gunboats who attempted to intercept her and either inspect her catch or cut through her nets. On more than one occasion tempers flared and accusations were levelled about attempts to ram other vessels. However, the Ross Revenge with such a powerful engine was known to be capable of outrunning many of the Icelandic navy ships, and her skipper of the time was notorious amongst the Icelandic coastguard for being somewhat of a challenge to their authority. By the late 1970's the London government along with many other European governments reluctantly accepted Icelands new 200 mile limit and with little stocks closer to home the long range fishing industry went into very sharp decline. Many of her contemporaries met with the cutters torch, whilst some went on to be converted for use in the then booming North Sea oil industry. However, The Ross Revenge laid in port for almost two years before she was acquired for use as a salvage ship and tug to operate from the Cornish coast in 1979. By September 1980 she was laid up in Cairnryan shipyard on the West coast of Scotland where she assisted in bringing HMS Ark Royal into the breakers yard. It is possible that she was also facing the cutters torch at this time, just 20 years old, but this fact cannot at present be confirmed.
Shortly after she was auctioned off by a bank and despite bids from several breakers yards, she went to a mysterious buyer for an undisclosed purpose. She was taken to Santander in Spain where conversion work started to turn her into the new Radio Caroline ship, replacing their former ship "Mi Amigo" which had sunk at anchor during storms following a 20 year broadcasting career. Financial and legal disputes delayed the conversion process but finally, in August 1983 she left Santander and headed for the Thames estuary.
On 20th August, with an immense 300 foot transmission mast and brightly repainted in red and white the Ross Revenge entered the history books again as Radio Caroline re-launched to a pan European audience. Keeping a radio ship at anchor is no easy task and as early as January 1984 she dragged anchor and had to be towed back to her normal anchorage in the Knock Deep channel safely outside the UK's 3 mile territorial limit. Broadcasts resumed shortly after taking up anchor again, and over the next few years she held up well in her new career, for a while hosting three separate radio stations on three frequencies - an accomplishment never before or later achieved by an offshore station.
However, the hurricane force winds which ravaged the southern UK in October 1987 (colloquially known as the "Michael Fish" hurricane after the TV weatherman mocked a viewer who asked if a hurricane was on its way) wrought damage upon her mast and its rigging - many of the lines had stretched and the ceramic insulators used to stop her transmitter power shorting back to the deck had shattered under the immense strain. Remarkably though, that morning after the hurricane she was one of only a handful of radio stations in the South East to be broadcasting.
But the mast was critically damaged, and without effective support it started to flex and metal fatigue at the base started to set in. Before repairs could be effected, north easterly force 10's a few weeks later ravished the ship once more, and in the early hours of the morning of 25th November, as the tide changed and the ship swung round there was an almighty cacophony of bangs and crashes as the mast collapsed over the starboard side of the ship, still held in place by the remaining guy wires.
However, Caroline supporters were not deterred by such officialdom and by coming together to form a support group they raised money to pay the salvage costs and cover the most critical defects. Since 1991 Ross Revenge has been cared for and maintained by an enthusiastic supporters group, who not only have covered the costs to operate, preserve and restore her, but have also rasied the finance to re-launch Radio Caroline as a 21st century worldwide internet and satellite radio station like no other. Once released from Dover, but still subject to a detention order the Ross Revenge has been taken round various locations in the Thames estuary. Southend Pier, Clacton, Bradwell, London Docklands, Sheerness, Rochester, Queenborough and most recently Tilbury have provided temporary homes for the old girl whilst allowing her to be opened up to the public as a real life, living, floating museum with an amazing story to tell - from icebergs in the arctic to records at sea.
This Site (C), Launched July 13th 2001.