Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Where the Prime Meridian and the Equator Meet

There is an old maritime ritual called "Neptune Day". This is the day when "Polliwogs" cross the Equator to achieve "Shellback" status. As the ancient nautical tradition goes, polliwogs must go through a series of initiation rites to earn Shellback status. These rituals include being immersed in fish guts, shaving one's head, and kissing a dead fish.

Kinda like the rites of passage I had to go through to be confirmed in the Catholic Church or initiated into my sorority in college, except sans the fish guts and shaving of the head. (Okay- actually nothing like these two events at all, because that would be hazing. But still a rite of passage which earns you new status.)

So we had the ceremonial activities yesterday, but we actually cross the Equator today. I also noticed the ship's position last night was 12 degrees longitude, which puts us pretty close to the Prime Meridian as well. There is a special title for Shellbacks who cross the Equator at that 0 degrees longitude point and that is called Emerald Shellback or Royal Diamond Shellback. I'm not sure if we'll cross exactly at the Prime Meridian or not later today, but we'll be pretty close as we edge in towards Walvis Bay, Namibia.

The navy also has some fraternities when sailors accomplish certain feats. I would be eligible for the following after this voyage:
  • The Order of the Golden Dragon for sailors who have crossed the International Date Line. (We will have two April 12ths and two Easter Sundays on this voyage!)
  • The Order of the Ditch for sailors who have passed through the Panama Canal.
  • The Order of the Rock for sailors who have transited the Strait of Gibralter (done).
  • The Emerald Shellback or Royal Diamond Shellback for sailors who cross at 0 0 degrees off the coast of West Africa.
  • The Order of Magellan for sailors who circumnavigated the earth.
So early in the morning yesterday the ship's crew came through the corridors banging on drums and blowing whistles to wake up the entire ship's company. King Neptune (i.e. the Captain of the Ship) presides and each polliwog must bow before his royal court. Many students were outside all day and last night at dinner I saw a lot of bright red lobsters. SPF 30 doesn't do ya much good when you're at the Equator.....But aloe ran aplenty and no one seemed to be complaining too much. Because Shellbacks don't complain!

Here are some photos:

Okay and just for fun, I'll end with a poem, which I have adapted from Desire, by U2. The humid air outside, the sunburned students, the proximity to the Equator, and the desire to finally get to Namibia made me think of this particular song:

Lover, I'm on the sea
Gonna go where the prime meridian
And the equator meet
With the Explorer...on fire


She's a vessel sailing in the dark

Yeah I'm like the dolphin, dolphin and shark

Over the railing with the hot sun

Pretty soon everybody got one

And the fever when I'm beside her

Desire, desire...

And the fever...getting higher

Desire, desire...
burning, burning

She's got the scholars

She's my protection

Yeah she's a promise

In the year of election
Oh sister, I can't let you go

Like a preacher stealing hearts
At a traveling show
For love or money money money
money money money money money money money money And the fever, getting higher Desire, desire, desire, desire Desire, desire

PS- No, I didn't shave my head in case you're wondering. Only my legs.

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