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01 Jun - Crossing the Line

RRS James Clark Ross Diary

Noon Position: 09° 35.0 N, 30° 41.2 W)
Distance Travelled since Grimsby: 41,181.5 Nautical Miles
Air temperature @ Noon today: 27.8°C
Sea temperature @ Noon today : 26.9°C
Weather: Good, NE, 4, 1013.9


Crossing the line

The James Clark Ross has been heading due north for most of the week and only had one change of course during the entire 7 days.  It meant that we were making good time towards the equator and the ship fell into the Northern Hemisphere late on Thursday night at about 2230hrs.  The view from the bridge therefore looked much like the photograph below most of the time with the compass pointing at heading 000, with miles of big blue ocean in every direction.

Northbound - Click to enlarge

The weather has been fantastic for almost the entire week and we have been enjoying some spectacular sunsets from on top of the science hatch.  It provides a perfect view of the port side and the setting sun every night.  There is a regular crowd jostling for position after work most nights.  Below is a small selection of the characters spotted there this week. Click the images to enlarge them.

Dave Gooberman - he's on the bridge - Click to enlarge Alex el Doctor - Click to enlarge
Jim 'hero' Stevenson - Click to enlarge Pete Lens - Click to enlarge
Sandy with the nice hat - Click to enlarge Tom - Click to enlarge Doug avec gizmo - Click to enlarge

Sunny sailing through the heat of the tropics is a traditional time for getting all the 'chipping and painting' done on the ship to clean it up ready for refit and make the most of the dry, warm weather.  Due to the AMT there has been very little going on so that we don't contaminate any of the sensitive scientific equipment onboard with paint fumes.  However the lads did get out for a bit of tropical work a combining the sun tanning with painting.

The JCRs answer to Van Gogh - Click to enlarge Y....M.....C......A.....! Click to enlarge

The week started on Monday with a birthday.  Dave King, the second mate, celebrated his 30th birthday with a little soiree on the science hatch in the evening sun.  His birthday cake was very impressive anatomically speaking and even made Dave blush!  But then that isn't difficult!

Dave's Birthday - Click to enlarge


The visit of King Neptune

Another traditional occupation when in the tropics is preparing for crossing the line and the visit of King Neptune with his court.  This ceremony is very old and has been mentioned many times in the past and it is something for everyone (who has already crossed - Ed) to look forward to.  Old salty quotes abound.....

The following extract from 'Spare Time at Sea' by Ronald Hope, aptly describes the ceremony.

"In 1471 the Portuguese Lopa Gonçalvez made history by becoming the first European to cross the dreaded equator, and he may well have celebrated that occasion in some fashion. The earliest mention of a baptismal, propitiation or initiation ceremony dates from 1529, though similar ceremonies are believed to have been customary in European waters before this time, being performed at such distinctive places as the Straits of Gibraltar, the Sound and the Skaw.

Crossing the equator in the days of sail was certainly an occasion for ceremony and thanksgiving, for a ship might lie for weeks in the doldrums, and terrible things could happen 'under the line' from shortage of water and fresh foods."

Here is a description of the ceremony aboard an English ship in 1784:

"At noon the arrival of Neptune is announced; the marine deity is personated by a sailor bearing in his hand the trident, and seated in a car, which is no other than a water tub, drawn by some of his companions in the character of Tritons. The appearance of Neptune and his retinue is highly grotesque; their oozy locks are composed of long, half-wet swabs, bespattered with oatmeal, and their faces are painted with red ochre. On approaching the captain, Neptune demands the object of his voyage, and receives the customary tribute from those who have not crossed the line and choose to evade the ceremony of ducking and shaving. Meanwhile the intended victims, including such as have not obtained their freedom from Neptune, are confirmed between the decks, from whence they are one by one dragged to execution. A large grog-tub, filled with salt water, is placed on one of the gangways, and over it is laid a plank, on which the novice is seated, whilst the barber besmears his face with a composition of tar and grease, and then scrapes it with part of an iron hoop instead of a razor. On the signal being given the plank is withdrawn, when the unfortunate wretch is immersed in water; from which he is not suffered to escape till he is menaced with suffocation".

So in traditional fashion the cast was assembled.  King Neptune and his most beautiful wife, Queen Amphitrite, dressed in royal attire arrived upon the JCR to be welcomed by Captain Burgan.  A judge was brought forth, a professional photographer arrived, the 'Ocean's 18' were named and shamed with wanted posters on the bulk heads.  A 'doctor' appeared with a barber in tow, to hand out medicine if anyone looked a little sea sick.  Neptune organized his police and we even had UN observer to ensure no international incidents were created.  The strange scene was set and the only thing to do now was find the guilty so that they could be judged.........

King Neptune - Click to enlarge Queen Amphitrite - Click to enlarge The Captain creeping up to Neptune - Click to enlarge
Wanted for judgement - Click to enlarge Lord Snowdon? - Click to enlarge Judge Dread - Click to enlarge

The Queen Amphitrite invariably accompanies her husband, as Edmund Spenser shows in The Faerie Queene, written in 1590 and probably inspired in this passage by a court masque:

First came great neptune with his threefold mace,
That rules the seas and makes them rise and fall;
His dewy locks did drop with brine apace,
Under his diadem imperial;
And by his side his Queen with coronal,
Fair Ampthitrite, most divinely fair,
Whose ivory shoulders were covered all,
As with a rope, with her own silver hair,
And decked with pearls, which th'Indian seas for her prepare.
These marched far afore the other crew.

The police force of Neptune quickly set about searching through the ship for the guilty members onboard who had not paid due respect to the King.  Obvious hiding places such as underneath the stairs, behind the washing machines were quickly rooted out and the hiding criminal fraternity were brought before the law.  After a list of charges were read out the victim could plead guilty or innocent (everyone knows they're all guilty! - Ed).  Crimes were heinous, deviant and highly insulting to King Neptune.  Click here for some of the naughty doctors charges.....

Justice - Click to enlarge The scene - Click to enlarge The King and Queen - Click to enlarge

All 18 of the upstarts were found.  Tom held out the longest, hiding behind some boxes in a cupboard.........but was still found and judged more harshly for it!

Wanted! Click to enlarge

Whatever the criminal pleaded with Neptune, predictably it made no difference to the final judgement and punishment was swiftly delivered by the 'doctor' and barber.  Once each patient had taken their 'medicine' and had been covered in slime amongst other things, they had to pay their respects to a very smelly kipper at Neptune's feet.

Eau du Slops - Click to enlarge Une tres smelly peche! - Click to enlarge Grant him his freedom - Click to enlarge
Sorry I'm on a diet! - Click to enlarge Take some of your own medicine Doc - Click to enlarge

Probably the worst criminal was the Principle Scientific Officer, Tim Jickells who had been performing a rain dance for the last week on the Monkey Island.  He finally got his desires halfway through the ceremony as we were hit by a tropical downpour of biblical proportions.  The sky went black, the wind picked up and the rain came down in torrents.  It was an fitting apocalyptic scene that heralded the end of the court as judged, judges, royalty and police all retired inside for head shaving, an 'indoor BBQ' and party to celebrate the day.


Thank-yous this week: to the court of King Neptune and all his helpers that made such a fun day.

Coming up next week: More science and closer to home.


Alex Ramsden
Ship's Doctor