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Radio Nord - History (3)

The Radio Nord offices in Stockholm obtained early editions of the morning newspapers at 3.00am and edited stories from them for use on radio bulletins. They also monitored the Swedish State Radio news for more up-to-date information and made regular checks with control centres of the various emergency services.

The edited stories were then fed to the ship via the ship-to-shore telephone link. News staff on board the Magda Maria also monitored foreign news broadcasts, including those of the BBC World Service and Voice of America for additional material and background information. Sports results were obtained by station staff phoning the various arenas while horse racing results from the track at Solvalla were broadcast shortly after each race. This amazing feat was achieved by correspondents at the track phoning details of results, odds and cancellations to Radio Nord's Stockholm News Department, who then relayed the information out to the ship.

The system of using the ship-to-shore telephone facility to relay news in this way was eventually stopped in the autumn of 1961 when the Swedish Telegraph Board ordered the Stockholm Radio station at Stafsnos to handle only emergency calls to the Magda Maria. The ship-based news staff were then forced to gather stories themselves from hourly news bulletins on foreign stations. This meant that Radio Nord news bulletins then had to be broadcast at a quarter past the hour and as a consequence the station suffered many jibes from the Swedish press about "presenting the latest news - 15 minutes later". By the beginning of 1962, however, a radio telephone link had been established on board the Magda Maria and Radio Nord was once again able to present up-to-date news on the hour.

Radio Nord was at first serviced by a fishing boat, Listerlind, which took crew and equipment out to the Magda Maria. However, the Listerlind was soon found to be too small and uncomfortable for the three hour journey and was replaced by a larger tender, the Bellana. All journeys to the ship were cleared through customs and Swedish Government export licences had to be obtained for certain items of specialist technical equipment.

The station aRadio Nord's plane delivering programme tapeslso used a Cessna light aircraft , similar to that used by the Danish offshore station Radio Mercur, to drop canisters containing programme tapes, commercials, mail, newspapers and messages on an almost daily  basis. The canisters, with a line attached to them, were thrown from the aircraft so that they would land in the sea across another line which trailed from the stern of the ship and was secured to floats. The ropes attached to the canister would catch in the floats and it was then hauled on board by the crew using a rope and pulley mechanism. So effective was this delivery system that during the life of the station only two canisters were not retrieved from the sea.

The curtailment of the ship-to-shore telephone service also had an effect on the station's supply operation. 'Domestic' messages from the Magda Maria to the Stockholm office about supplies now had to be transmitted over the air at a set time (12.30pm) each day during normal programming. This system was eventually modified so that a tape containing the messages was recorded at slow speed and replayed over the air at fast speed (and sometimes, to maintain confidentiality, backwards) at 4.00am each morning when the audience levels were at their lowest.

Radio Nord's programme format of music and regular news bulletins proved immensely popular with Swedish listeners. In response to this offshore competition Swedish State Radio introduced an easy listening service - Melodi Radio on 5th May 1961, just six weeks after Radio Nord had come on the air.

An opinion poll taken in June 1961 by the Institute for Market Inquiries (IMU) showed that, even after the introduction of Melodi Radio, more listeners consistently tuned into Radio Nord for their musical entertainment.

At first Radio Nord only had one advertiser - the Westinghouse Corporation, but a number of 'friendly' organisations were given free spots in return for goods and services they had supplied so the on-air effect was that the station sounded commercially successful from day one. Gradually businessmen began to realise the benefits of using the station in their advertising campaigns and some amazing sales results were achieved following promotion on Radio Nord.- Duralex glass manufacturers claimed to have increased sales of their products by 300% as a direct result of advertising on Radio Nord while Westinghouse sold its entire Swedish stock of dishwashers in a matter of days following a series of commercials on the station. However, some large advertisers (and their agencies) who had initially expressed interest and support became reluctant to use Radio Nord after having been 'advised' that if they did so lucrative  government  supply contracts would be cancelled.

After nine months on the air without any real problems, trouble came for Radio Nord on 6th December 1961, when during a 70mph gale the Magda Maria  began dragging her anchor and started to drift from her mooring. Although no one could have imagined it at the time this was to be the first of many such storm dramas which would affect the ship during its offshore radio life.

The storm had actually started on 2nd December 1961 when a steadily increasing wind and rough seas made the Magda Maria roll dramatically at her anchorage. Everybody on board grew increasingly  tired and physically exhausted as the storm continued day after day - sleeping was impossible in such conditions with furniture, fittings and the contents of cabins being thrown around as the ship tossed violently in the heavy  seas.

By the early morning of 6th December the storm had intensified and with waves towering above the ship, causing her to keel, at times over to 45 degrees, the anchor chain broke and the Magda Maria started to drift. In the studio broadcasting staff fought to keep the taped programmes on the air, but with the constant movement of the ship tapes and cartridges were flung from their racks and strewn across the floor.

Having confirmed that the Magda Maria was actually drifting, the Captain ordered the engines to be started, but pressure in the air tanks had dropped preventing diesel flowing to the engines. The Captain, by now up to his waist in water on the deck, ordered the crew to pump up the pressure using the only means available - the hand pump. Everyone on board had to assist with this exercise because it was impossible for one man to work for long in the cramped conditions of the engine room where the pump handle was located.

After several hours pumping the pressure a few attempts were made to start the engines, but without success. With the pressure dropping once more further attempts to start the engines were useless so everyone had to return to the hand pump and begin the operation all over again.

Incredibly Radio Nord's programmes were transmitted as normal throughout this drama until 5.00pm when the news service had to be discontinued. This was because the on-board newsreader had to take the rudder of the ship after the engines had eventually been started.

Radio Nord’s plane delivering programme tapes

Click on picture to enlarge

Hauling the programme tapes canister aboard Magda Maria

Photo: Ingemar Lindqvist

Loading the programme tapes canister on the plane.

Photo: Ingemar Lindqvist

Opening the canister aboard Magda Maria

Photo: Ingemar Lindqvist


7th December 1961

Ingemar Lindqvist

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Key Dates

Ship and Location




Key Dates Ship and Location Technical Programmes Staff

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Click to enlarge

Columbia ‘Make You a Star’ promo

Columbia make you a star-promo.mp3

American Express

American Express  ad.mp3


Lufthansa ad.mp3

Roses Lime Juice

Rose's Lime Juice ad.mp3

Camel Cigarettes

Camel ad.mp3

Commercials and Programme Trailers courtesy Ingemar Lindqvist

A film made by Kjell Bergström, News Director at Radio Nord during the spring and summer of 1961 featuring  the land-based studios and  studios on board Bon Jour.

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