The Crystal Ship

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Crystal Ship QSL
The Crystal Ship, often referred to as "TCS", is perhaps one of the oldest shortwave North American HF pirate radio stations still operating, with a history dating back to the Fall of 1982. The primary format of the station is classic rock music, with a heavy emphasis on The Doors, Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and others. The station announcers are The Poet aka John Poet, and The Radical, who has a semi-regular segment called "Shots from the Port Side". The Poet and The Radical often editorialize on politics, with a left-leaning point of view.

The station is active as of June 2009, after a 10-month absence [update July, 2011: station has been busted, see below]. It is usually heard on 6815, 6876 or 5385 kHz in the AM mode. It has sometimes used dual transmitters to broadcast on parallel frequencies.

Since their second coming as an active pirate station in the Fall of 2004, The Crystal Ship has verified the reception reports of well over 100 pirate DXers in 32 states, reporting from all four corners of the lower-48 United States. Reception has also been reported from Canada, Venezuela, France, and England. The station claims to be based in lower Michigan.


The Crystal Ship was busted by the FCC in May of 2011, according to FCC documents and by the admission of John Poet. Poet discussed at length his theory behind the bust on his blog, suggesting that another pirate operator was providing information to the FCC about the identity of pirate station operators.

Since the bust, The Crystal Ship has reappeared as a program broadcast by an unknown number of relaying stations, now sometimes IDing as the 'TCS Shortwave Relay Network'.

Shortly after the bust, Poet opened the Free Radio Cafe pirate radio forum.


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