At supper last night the word began to spread that we were going to dip South and cross the Equator. This is a big deal in the Navy. The right of passage ceremony that one must go through from Pollywog to Shellback is steeped in lore and Naval history.
"Crossing the Line" is a time honored tradition in the United States Navy that has in the past been characterized by a celebration that marks, inducts, and honors an important and significant event in the maturation and seasoning of young (and some not so young) Sailors.
This celebration will mark a day in their lives which, when remembered later, will become a reference point used to gauge the passage of time. With this celebration we seek to rescue them from interminable, unhappy ranks of miserable "pollywogs" and induct them into the ranks of trusty, crusty and honorable "shellbacks". This ceremony will be a positive experience to all who are involved. It will seek to honor the rich legacy and lore of
the mystical Davy Jones, His Majesty King Neptunus Rex and his court while reinforcing our Navy Core Values of HONOR, COURAGE, and COMMITMENT.
Ask anyone who has ever served in the Navy if they are a “Wog” or an honorable “Shellback” and they will know what you are talking about, and most likely have a a memorable story to tell. We were not supposed to get near the Equator on our way to Temaco, Colombia, but we got a call yesterday from a U.S. Submarine in the area needing to medically evacuate one of their patients to us, and therefore we steamed full speed to the SouthWest to meet the patient (who after I examined him thoroughly turned out to just have case of gastritis. TUMS and SITFU for him. Anyhow, with that change in course we were close enough to the Equator for the Shellbacks to convince the Commodore to dip down overnight to cross the midline of the world. Knowing that this was coming, the Pollywogs among us (the majority of the crew that had not crossed the Equator before onboard ship) got ready for battle. We were to dress in white T-shirt and long pants (both inside out and backwards) with clear designation that we were Wogs. The Shellbacks dressed as Pirates. Much scheming was done this night and although the Wogs were ordered to our racks at 8pm. My roommates and I stood with solidarity and maintained the Shellbacks from entering our Officer Stateroom. Even the Murse (male nurse) from Canada contributed. The rumor was that the Shellbacks would start our initiation at 5am the following morning, so we hit the sack and some (including myself) wore our Wog attire to bed.
At slightly before 5am we were awakened by yelling and pounding on the doors by Shellbacks. My roommates and I sprung out of bed, threw on our boots, posed for a quick photo, and went forth to face the gauntlet. Up on the casualty receiving floor we were placed face down on the floor and sprayed down with water and soiled with maple syrup, ketchup, and mustard. We gave kisses to a royal cat stuffed animal that was referred to by a different name. On my shirt was written “Diver Wog” and I was made to lead our group in physical exercises like pushups and flutter kicks until we were about to throw up. We sang songs- Jingle Bells, Beat It by Michael Jackson, Row row row your boat, Anchors Away, and In the Jungle the Lion Sleeps Tonight. They even fed us breakfast- pink pancakes, purple eggs, and green hashbrowns. The only difference was we could not use our hands and had to eat it with our mouths off the tray. Back to exercising….. A pirate with a large beard, a knife and a whistle had written on his shirt Physical Trainer, and he put us through a workout of running, pushups, and throwing ourselves on the deck to wipe the floor with our bodies. We were doused with flower, and soaked again, and then feathers came out. We were blindfolded and in a single line train made our way up to the flight deck following the Wog in front of us. I could not see what was coming next, but it sure smelled disgusting. Down on our knees we climbed through a tunnel full of something like spaghetti or soup or meatballs mixed with water and Tabasco I think. On the other side of the tunnel we took our blindfolds off and climbed over a large net and into a barrel filled with fluorescent green water. Our whole body had to be submerged in the lime green water, and I took a big breathe and went for it and stayed under for a good 2 minutes or so. I wanted to give the Shellbacks a scare and after these two minutes they grabbed my hair and pulled me out of there. Ha ha. For this they sent me to the “Toilet Bowl”. A john stand alone and filled with something red and filthy. I stuck my head in there after some prodding and tasted a combination of root beer and ketchup and something in there stung my eyes. It must have been some Tabasco. The firehose came out and we were doused with water as we did pushups on the flight deck and tried to blow the water out of the starlet holes on the deck to no avail.
The theatrics continued with dousing by more flour, eggs, and mustard. We were placed on stretchers and hosed down again. The final part of the initiation is to kneel before Lord Neptune. Neptune had a crown with jewels, sunglasses, a white beard, and looked a bit like Gandolf from Lord of the Rings. He even had a Jester running around him screaming insanely. He asked us if we were ready to be Shellbacks and we answered Yes, Your Majesty. One Wog didn’t and they had to do the whole thing over again. Dumba#* Filthy, soaked, exhausted, it was only 830 in the morning and me and my roommates had made the crossing of the Equator and survived the right of passage and were now officially Shellbacks. Our room now smells a bit “gamey” as the Canadian Murse describes it, but our boots and pants will air dry eventually. Until then, I am stuck with my flip flops. On to Colombia!