THE HIGH SEAS: Bittersweet Caroline

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Who said radio drama was dead?

Consider the latest chapter in the saga of the pirate radio ships operating in the North Sea. Anchored just outside territorial waters off The Netherlands, these vessels beam a mixture of pop music, disk-jockey egos and insistent commercials into homes otherwise served only by relatively sedate Dutch broadcasting. Until recently, this profitable operation was shared by Radio Veronica and Radio Northsea, which had agreed to a truce after three frogmen hired by one of Veronica's owners had planted a bomb aboard Northsea (TIME, May 31,1971). Now, though, something new has come between Veronica and Northsea.

The something new is Radio Caroline, a golden oldie that used to aim her programs into Britain from three separate ships until Parliament passed a special law silencing pirate broadcasts. Radio Caroline, which was named by her Irish owner Ronan O'Rahilly (pronounced O'Reilly) after John F. Kennedy's daughter, has now been reduced to one ship, a rusty old coastal vessel called Mi Amigo. Just before Christmas, she anchored in the 300-yd. gap between Veronica and Northsea, five miles off the coast of The Netherlands, and started competing with them for Dutch listeners.

O'Rahilly initially staffed Radio Caroline (whose theme song, naturally, is Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline) with three London deejays: Andy Archer, Crispin St. John and Peter Chicago. He paid them in advance, but somehow he neglected to pay Mi Amigo's Dutch captain or the six-man crew. Between Christmas and New Year's, the crew quit. Captain Will van der Kamp, in the best seagoing tradition, refused to abandon ship. But feeling threatened by the deejays, he armed himself with a rifle and locked himself in his cabin on the bridge.

O'Rahilly promptly flew to The Netherlands from his luxurious pad in London to confer with the mutinous crew. The long-haired Irish entrepreneur is a good talker, and three of the crew agreed to accompany him back to the ship, where he tried to calm Van der Kamp. Listeners to Radio Caroline got only a hint of the drama. Just before it went off the air following the crew rebellion, Peter Chicago apologized: "Sorry, sorry, but there's a mutiny on board." After the captain seemed pacified, Crispin St. John resumed broadcasting with an inspirational message: "Let's have peace on earth, ladies and gentlemen."

Outmuscled. Peace, however, did not last long aboard Mi Amigo. After going ashore, ostensibly for a rest, Van der Kamp returned in the dark of night with the other three crew members, armed (according to the disk jockeys) with guns. The deejays tried to defend their quarters with iron bars but were outmuscled by the sailors. The captain cut the anchor, and a small tugboat dragged Mi Amigo into Amsterdam harbor. Charges and countercharges flew; a Dutch shipping inspector declared Mi Amigo unsafe to sail.

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