An unknown 30-foot motor launch

Offshore radio station: In 1930, Powel Crosley Jr's second season as a winter resident in Sarasota/Florida created a big sensation. That year he accepted the honor of serving as president of the Sarasota Angler's Club -- the organization that co-sponsored the tarpon tournament. Understanding the importance the tarpon tournament played in stimulating the area's severely depressed economy, the club set a goal to attract 10 times as many sportsmen to the two-month event as the year before.

Crosley, a marketing genius, envisioned a brilliant plan to achieve this goal. He would broadcast the event live from a boat to his powerful radio station in Cincinnati, WLW, known as the "Nation's Station," and across the entire nation. This feat had never been attempted and required careful planning and preparation.

Crosley had a 30-foot boat constructed which would serve as a "floating radio station." He named it the "Little WLW". It contained a built-in microphone, a short wave transmitter, and a 30-foot-high antennae. The broadcast was selected for June 10, 1930, at 8:30 p.m. to coincide with a full moon and changing tide. Crosley's radio station sent out more than 600 notices to newspapers across the country announcing the event.

Days before the broadcast, engineers from WLW came down to set-up and test the apparatus. The antennae on the boat would transmit the signal to a land station consisting of a tiny light on top of a flagpole on the Venice bathing pavilion. From there, nearly 1,350 miles of land lines would carry the live broadcast to his 50,000-watt, WLW radio station transmitter in Cincinnati. It would be the longest line ever used by a single station to carry a program from a remote pick-up point.

On the evening of the event, 13 men, including Crosley and WLW's chief radio announcer, Robert Brown, boarded the "Little WLW" and skillfully maneuvered through a shallow pass just south of Venice. They were surrounded by more than 30 fishing boats. As broadcast time approached, tarpon were rolling all about, but none were striking. Then luckily, with only five minutes before the start of the broadcast, an angler in a nearby boat caught one. The two boats came together and the angler climbed from his boat into the "Little WLW," just in time for the broadcast to begin. As the angler battled to land the silver king, the radio announcer on the "Little WLW" vividly described every detail as millions across the nation listened in.

Although it was not a prize catch, the tarpon officially weighed in at 85 pounds and the broadcasting feat was reported to be the most remarkable in history. For catapulting their community into the national spotlight, Powel Crosley Jr. won the gratitude of Sarasotans and was declared "Sarasota's Patron Saint of the Air." [Story taken from the Herald Tribune]

Location: Off the coast of Sarasota and Venice (Florida/USA)

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