August 15, 2012
During the cruise we crossed the equator. This may not seem like a big deal at first but to people that spend a lot of time on boats, it’s a pretty big deal. You become part of a very small and special group known as a shellback. This is considered among many to be a prestigious group, mainly because so few people ever get the opportunity to cross the equator. But to become a shellback you have to do more than just cross the equator…you have to be initiated. Now this initiation has changed a lot through the years. From what I have read and heard, it’s toned down a lot.
I cannot go into too much detail because parts of it are secret but first we had to apply for the initiation. This was a form with a bunch of question on it that we had to answer so that Neptune’s council could judge whether or not we were worthy to become shellbacks. There was also an application fee. This could be paid in many different currencies and each currency had its own amount. For US dollars it was 63 cents. Luckily with a little help from my friends I came up with the proper amount.
Another part of the ritual is your outfit or costume. Each person had to paint at least one of his or her fingernails and toenails. Most of this was done on the Spa Night we had out there. See earlier post. Below you can see my nails, pretty aint they!
Next we had to wear our shirts inside out and backwards and our underwear outside our clothes. This allowed us to be easily identified from people that were not participating in the ceremony or had already gone through it. We were told the night before to be ready early.
700 am the ship’s PA system goes off. “Rise and shine pollywogs!!! Its time!” is heard blasting over the system with a few alarms going off. Pollywogs are what people are called that have not yet been initiated. There was a banging out my bunk door and when we opened it there stood a few member of the crew with makeshift weapons to greet us. Now don’t be alarmed the weapons were mostly cardboard and foam. They handed us our nametags and told us to go to the bow (the front of the ship) and to hurry. Each person was given a name that they had to go by for the day. They were individualized based on how you filled your application. My name was Pukie Wog. I was given this name because one of the stories I told on my application was about how when I was younger a group of my friends and I would do stupid things and tape them. One of the things was to puke in public places and see how people reacted. Maybe not one of my best moments. Anyway, there were some pretty interesting ones like Sea Wolf Wog, Sandy Bottom Wog, and Psycho Killer Wog. I am not going to explain those.
We were huddled in the bow and told about what was ahead for us. We then went to eat but were not allowed to start until all the people that had already done a crossing had eaten. And we had to use our hands to eat and were not allowed to talk though not many people followed the no talking part.
After that we had to clean the boat for a couple hours. Scrub it clean. I was put in a group that had to clea
n the back deck, which was not bad. Others had to scrub toilets and clean dishes. I felt I got off pretty easy.
Next was lunch. Same as breakfast. Eat last with no utensils and don’t talk.
After food Neptune arrived on the boat, along with his council. We were put in a room and told to wait. Then Davey Jones came in and told us that we are all being brought up on charges for the heinous things we have done. Neptune and his wife then entered followed by our lawyer. Yes we had a lawyer and he was great! One by one our names were called and we had to stand to be judged. Davey Jones read off our charges and then the lawyer would say something that he prepared to defend us. They were all individualized and really well done. Very funny! I have to hand in to Lance (a crew member that was the lawyer), he must have put in a lot of time on those. However, despite his best efforts, everyone was found guilty and would have to be punished. I am not a betting man, but if I were I would bet that everyone is guilty every time they do this. Just sayin…
Then we were given time to practice our skits/performances. Yes we had to please the council of Neptune before we could become a shellback. If they liked you display, they may take it easy on you. My group decided to put on a play about the journey we were on. Trying to find DDAs in the Amazon River plume and the turmoil we all went through. Doubting that they existed but then finding them in the end. With some satire thrown in there and random stupidness to make it interesting. I played TrichMo, a Tricho puff colony that we kept finding instead of DDAs. It was fun. Another group did a hardcore rap that I cannot repeat the lyrics of but it was amazing. Way better than our play. The Brazilian group did some sexy dance fighting, capoeira. All and all everyone was pretty entertaining.
Finally was the gauntlet. We were all put in the main lab and brought through one at a time. First we were blind folded and led out to the back deck. Then we were told to sit down. The chair started vibrating (because they hid a grinder under the seat) and ice cold, and I mean ice cold water was poured over your head. So much ice that it would bounce off of you. The amount of water per person varied but I got 4 large paint buckets of it. It was so cold that I could not breathe. And the water got soaked into my blindfold and my eyes felt like they were going to freeze. After that we were walked to the next station where they pretended to shave our heads. To make this more convincing they had a frayed piece of rope that they would rub on you to make you think it was your actual hair. Top that hair cut off with some shaving cream, chocolate syrup, and some baby powder. You know, pretty standard hair cut. Finally we were walked over to the “whale’s belly.” This was a tarp with rancid food scattered all over it. I will attach some pictures of them preparing this and some crawls through. Pretty much it was creamed corn, a myriad of meats including spam, sardines and a dead flying fish, and some random other stuff. They left it out in the sun all day to make it just right. Ill be honest it smelled putrid. We had to get on our bellies and craw through about 15 ft of it. It was really gross but not as bad as the ice water. That was by far the worst. After this they removed our blindfolds and we were shellbacks. A quick hose off and you could jump in initiating the people that had not gone yet.
So it was not too bad. They talked it up to be much worse than it actually was. They gave us all a certificate and a picture ID to present at the next crossing so you would not have to go through the initiation again. Better hold on to that! Now I am a shellback. Part of a very very small group of people that have sailed across the equator. Feels pretty cool.