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Oct 26 - Crossing the Equator

Sunday 26th October 2008

Position report at 13:00 GMT
Latitude: 09 55.0 S
Longitude: 25 00 W
Bearing: 100 °T, 600 Nm from Recife
Cruise Number: JR218
Distance Traveled: 232
Total Distance Traveled: 5200
Steam Time: 19.92
Total Steam Time: 449.8
Average Speed: 11.6
Total Average Speed: 11.6
Wind: Direction SE, Force 4
Sea State: Slight
Air Temp: 25.8 °C Sea Temp: 24.8 °C
Pressure: 1016.4
Tendency: Falling

At 2am on Friday, this good ship carried us over the line. I was a little disappointed to learn that there are no flashing lights, steps in the sea nor traditional song and dance for the watchmen to perform as they drove the ship into the southern hemisphere, and I hope that my arrival on the bridge dressed in a fake sailor's hat, proclaiming "Ahoy there sailors!" and making the tea, will prompt more of an effort in the celebrations for next time.

GPS reading at the Equator
GPS reading at the Equator

It became clear however that the festivities had merely been postponed until later in the day, and they commenced with the Captain's welcome aboard to King Neptune and his wife:

Captain Burgan's welcome to Neptune
Captain Burgan's welcome to Neptune

King Neptune and his beautiful wife
King Neptune and his beautiful wife

Once the formalities had taken place, it was time for Neptune's police ("trusty shellbacks" as are called those who have previously been through this initiation) to begin their search of the ship. They were hunting for "pollywogs" - people who have never sailed over the equator.

Neptune's Police
Neptune's Police

Neptune's police
Neptune's police

From my hiding place in a cupboard on the bridge, I could hear giggles from those on watch as they witnessed (from a safe distance) the arrest of the first pollywog. Though, I hear, she put up a good fight, poor Manuela was overpowered and brought before the court of King Neptune for judgment.

Manuela being brought to King Neptune's court
Manuela being brought to King Neptune's court

Once the charges had been stated, and the pollywog in question given opportunity to plead innocent (an unwise move I later discovered), judge (Tom) would invariably then proceed to declare said pollywog as guilty.

Judge Tom
Judge Tom

Punishment began with a ceremonial shave by the barber (Gareth):

Martin receiving a cream shave by Gareth the barber
Martin receiving a cream shave by Gareth the barber

Next, the hair was washed and trimmed:

Jo receiving a quick rinse and a crop
Jo receiving a quick rinse and a crop

The haircut was followed by being anointed and washed of sin (using a vile smelling concoction made up of last week's food waste) by Neptune's doctor (Riff):

Mario being given 'truth serum'
Mario being given 'truth serum'

John being given 'truth serum'
John being given 'truth serum'

Meanwhile, up on the bridge, I was feeling rather smug that I had found such a good hiding place whence I could hear the commentary from the watch keepers and learn that I was amongst the last to be caught. I had even started to think that I may not be found at all, and had made myself comfortable with a pillow in anticipation of a long night ahead. Little did I know that my trusted watch keeper colleagues were in cahoots with the police: I heard the bridge door open and the police were straight on to me. Resistance was futile (but attempted), and soon it was my turn to face the judge. I cannot understand why I had twice as many charges as the other pollywogs; perhaps it was my opening of the "charges suggestion box" with a scalpel and removing charges against me which antagonized the shellbacks?

I received my comeuppance
I received my comeuppance

As did poor Jeremy
As did poor Jeremy

Taking medicine from the doctor was an unpleasant but apparently necessary experience. Ben's face says it all
Taking medicine from the doctor was an unpleasant but apparently necessary experience. Ben's face says it all

Medicine consumed, the pollywog proceeds to "kiss the kipper" as demonstrated by Carolyn and Ross:

Carolyn
Carolyn

Ross
Ross

Last to be caught was Martine who had found an excellent hiding place outside, amongst the machinery.
Last to be caught was Martine who had found an excellent hiding place outside, amongst the machinery.

An important lesson was then taught to Johnny (chief of police): "trusty shellbacks" are clearly not to be trusted. They turned on their leader (because he had not brought his certificate and was thus unable to prove himself to be a shellback) and dressed him with the remainder of the truth serum:

Johnny, chief of police and leader of the shellbacks
Johnny, chief of police and leader of the shellbacks

It dawns on Johnny that he should have brought his certificate!
It dawns on Johnny that he should have brought his certificate!

This year the pollywogs had planned a counter-attack and it was judge Tom who got to taste his own medicine first

Judge Tom
Judge Tom

followed by "Doctor" Riff
'Doctor' Riff
'Doctor' Riff

Tom seems to be blaming me for instigating this attack because it was I who shouted "pollywogs revolt!", however as is evident from the photo, we were a united force. Days later Tom and I are still negotiating some form of truce.

Finally came the clean-up.

Power showers are not a patch on the fire hose - though it did take most of us 3 showers to remove all of the kipper and 'truth serum' from our hair
Power showers are not a patch on the fire hose - though it did take most of us 3 showers to remove all of the kipper and 'truth serum' from our hair

Those shellbacks with more sense stayed well away from the mess and enjoyed the spectacle from a safe distance
Those shellbacks with more sense stayed well away from the mess and enjoyed the spectacle from a safe distance

The day ended with a delicious Thai curry on the deck and dancing for those who were clean enough to be within sniffing distance of a dance partner. As always, a grand time was had by all - but I am relieved that as a new shellback, I will not have to suffer this ordeal again on the trip home!