Sunday, February 05, 2006

Samoa Bound

It has been a few days since I have written, but suffice it to say that we have crossed the equator and are bound for Samoa. The islands of Howland and Baker were spectacular and some of the best diving I have done. The anemones and clown fish around Baker were particularly touching (the photo shows an anemonefish (Amphiprion chrysopterus)).

Crossing the equator on a ship brings with it certain ceremonies and rites of passage through which we have been passing the past few days. Thus, my email absence. Crossing into the Realm of King Neptune a Pollywog (me) becomes a Shellback, but not before passing a number of tests.

The ceremony of crossing the line is an initiation rite in the Royal Navy, U.S. Navy, and other navies which commemorates a sailor's first crossing of the equator. Originally the tradition was created as a test for seasoned sailors to ensure their new shipmates were capable of handling long rough times at sea. Sailors who have already crossed the equator are nicknamed (Trusty) Shellbacks, often referred to as Sons of Neptune; those who have not are nicknamed (Slimy) Pollywogs. "King Neptune and his court" (usually including his first assistant Davy Jones and her Highness Amphitrite and often various dignitaries, who are all represented by the highest ranking seamen) officiate at the ceremony, during which the Pollywogs undergo a number of increasingly disgusting ordeals, largely for the entertainment of the Shellbacks. Once the ceremony is complete, a Pollywog receives a certificate declaring his new status. Another common status is the Golden shellback, a person who has crossed the equator at the 180th meridian (international date line) From Wikipedia