Radio Nord... Announced wavelength: 495 metres... Location: From motor vessel Bon Jour later renamed Magda Maria, anchored in international waters near the Almagrundet lightship off Stockholm, Sweden... Owners: Radio Reklam Produktion AB... Hours of transmission: 24 hours...

Picture: The Bon Jour...

In November 1959, following the succes of Radio Mercur a Swede Jack Kotschack and two Americans, Gordon McLendon and Bob Thompson set about bringing commercial radio to the Swedish capital...

The sound of Radio Nord...

Their initial task was to find a suitable ship and a salvage tug, Herakles, was selected, but after a closer examination it was declared too small... In Kiel, West Germany a suitable vessel was located, the M/S Olga a small cargo boat... She had been build in 1921 by Deutsche Werke AG of Kiel as a three masted schooner some 98 feet long... In 1927 her length was increased to 134 feet and engines installed, and she was given the name Olga replacing her original name S/S Margarethe... On 31st May 1960 she entered the Norder Werft in Hamburg to be converted into a radio ship... The engineer in charge of the conversion was seventy three year old Dr. Pepke, with Captain Kaj Hallonsten acting as consultant... The hold was converted to contain studios, transmitter hall, crew and radio staff quarters etc.... It was intended to erect two 125 foot masts to carry a flat top antenna looped between them but in the end only one was used... Work did not progress as quickly as had been hoped, and then a serious problem arose... Under a law passed during the time Hitler was in power it was illegal to install, repair or operate a radio station without government permission... A letter was send to the shipyard by the authorities on 10th August 1960 reminding them of the law...

The Bon Jour as the Olga had been renamed left Hamburg for Copenhagen where she docked in the free port... It was here that the mast was erected by Nordhava-Vaerftet and the transmitters installed... The two 10 kW Continental Electronics 316B crystal controlled transmitters were flown in from the USA in 6,000 loose parts and were assembled... At last everything was ready, and at 6:00 pm on Tuesday 20th December 1960 the Bon Jour left Langeline, Copenhagen bound for her anchorage near to Stockholm... It was hoped to tender the ship from the nearest port Dalaro, but as there was no customs post there, the port of Nynashamn some distance down the coast had to be used... Everything was ready for the station to be on the air by Christmas... This was not to be, just two and a half hours after sailing the Captain of the Bon Jour, who later turned out to be not fully qualified, decided to drop anchor as it was getting foggy... At 5:00 am the next morning she was under way again and the next day Oland, the half way point on her voyage, was passed... The wind was strengthening and the ship was rolling, then it was noticed that the stays on the mast were working loose and the Bon Jour dropped anchor off the island of Gotska Sandon to repair the damage... At 11:00 am on 23rd December 1960 the captain got the ship under way once more and some time later anchored at what he thought was the correct point... The transmitter was switched on, a blue flash came from the aerial, and everything went dead... The fishing boat Dannette spent all day looking for the radio ship after she had failed to find her at the correct anchorage... With the special Christmas programme tapes still on board she continued the search on Christmas Eve and eventually found the Bon Jour...

On Chrismas Day 1960 the crew abandoned ship as they feared the mast was going to collapse in the heavy seas, and a pilot boat took them into Sandhamn... A new captain was appointed, John Johansson and he took over... In short... After several journeys to many shipyards in Sweden and Finland as well, for repairs to be carried out, the Bon Jour was under way again on 4th February 1961 anchoring on the 6th off Orno... A gale blew up and to enable the engineers to carry out final checks prior to broadcasting, the ship set off again in search of calmer waters... A crack was heard from the mast and it was discovered that the insulators had cracked, so once more the Bon Jour limped into port arriving at the Finnboda shipyard in Stockholm on 7th February 1961... New insulators were fitted and a thorough check made of all the equipment... This done and in order to carry out a full check the transmitter was turned on for a few seconds at a time and one night a three hour test was made with the ship still anchored in the centre of Stockholm... No one could suspect that the transmission came from the Bon Jour, as the Swedish authorities always sealed the transmitters each time the ship entered Swedish waters, but the crew had discovered a methode of bypassing the seals...

The Bon Jour left port on 21st February 1961 and made for her anchorage and shortly after arriving the first tests went out... The first voice was that of Bengt Tornkrantz... After only a few days trouble was experienced with the condensors and a visit was made to Finnboda... The Bon Jour was at sea again on 1st March 1961 with tests, the following day the Swedish Parliament passed a law that any ship entering Swedish waters would have its broadcasting equipment confiscated... The test transmissions were on 606 kHz (495 metres) but a loud hum was experienced at night caused by Radio Lyon on 602 kHz (498 metres)... It was decided to move to 602 kHz and this proved satisfactory, but as far as the listeners were concerned Radio Nord was still on 495 as all publicity, jingles etc., had already advertised the fact that the station was on 495 metres... As well as the sea going tender, a light plane was used to drop a canister containing programme tapes and other messages astern of the Bon Jour... An ingenious system of ropes and hooks ensured that the canister was safely gathered by the crew on board and only once was a canister lost... So good was the system that a large whipped cream cake even arrived undamaged.

Picture: The Radio Nord studio...

Oil and water were brought from Stockholm by the Fredsgrogg... The Swedish Government put pressure on Nicaragua to withdraw the registration of the Bon Jour... Registration was obtained from Panama, but to enable this to take place the ship's name had to be changed to Magda Maria... Official programming commenced at 10:00 am on 8th March 1961 ending at 6:00 pm... The following day transmissions started at 6:00 am... A storm began to gather on 2nd December 1961 from the south west, and gradually got worse until on the 6th a 70 mph gale was battering the Magda Maria... The anchor began to drag and by 11:00 am the anchor was not holding at all and the ship was drifting... The engines would not start, but programmes still continued as normal until 5:00 pm when the news broadcasts had to cease as every men on board was needed to help keep the ship afloat... Then it was discovered that the anchor had gone, but as luck would have it the engine had just been got going... They had no idea of their position so they ran north with the storm making just two knots... At Midnight broadcasting stopped as they feared they were entering Swedish waters... One of the stays of the mast broke and the next morning the Magda Maria entered Sandhamn... The law relating to confiscation was not enforced as it was decided that the ship would have been wrecked if she had stayed at sea... The usual procedure of sealing the transmitter was observed... By 8th December 1961 repairs were completed and the Magda Maria made her way through a thick fog back to her anchorage... Broadcasts were recommenced, and for three weeks the seals were not removed from the transmitter, so proud were the crew of the fact that they had discovered a methode of bypassing them... Programmes were broadcast live from the ship and also pre-recorded in Stockholm... After the radio telephone was cut the messages for the shore were passed at 12:30 pm each day, but this was not a correct procedure for a commercial radio station, so a new system was introduced... At 4:00 am each morning when the station had fewest listeners a tape was played with the messages on it... It had been recorded using a low speed, but was replayed fast, and if required, in order to keep the message more confidential, backwards... The news was gathered from other stations on two receivers on board... On 29th March 1962 the Swedish Parliament introduced a bill proposing the outlawing of offshore radio... Being passed in May the law was take to effect from the 1st August 1962... Plans were being made to introduce a light music service on FM to supplement the Top 40 format of the medium wave transmissions... Commercials were to be broadcast simultaneously over both stations... It had been hoped to start this service in July 1962 but the forthcoming law caused this plan to be given up... As a prospective purchaser had been located the station closed down on 30th June 1962... After staying at anchor for some days, the ship left the Baltic and headed out into the North Sea, arriving at El Ferrol in Spain on 2nd August 1962... For more about the ship see Radio Atlanta...

 

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