What is the connection between the equator and shellbacks?
Traditional mariner lore (see great Naval History and Heritage Command blog here), is that a sailor is considered a Polywog until she crosses the line, eg the Equator. At that point, having undergone the “Solemn Mysteries of the Ancient Order of the Deep” ceremony, she matures into a lovely Shellback turtle. So, when you see all those salty sailor “Homeward Bound” tattoos (see tattoos decoded article here for a great image of tatoo placement), often they each document a particular accomplishment. So, for example, Don and I chose not to get Swallow tattoos on our breastbones when we sailed our first 5,000 nautical miles (NM). Don’t expect us to consider two swallows after this passage when we’ll be well past our second 5,000 NM.
We showed up with our clothes inside out and backward, and King Neptune read us the proclamations. We were then covered us with slop (ok whipped cream), made us crawl backwards around the front of the boat (hazing), and then we were dunked with salt water.
Leaving the boat
We then had to jump into the middle of the Pacific ocean, with no boats in sight which was a joyous affair.
Certificates and libations
King Neptune then read outloud, to each of us what was on our lovely certificates. Then, reverting to his Don Shellback self, Don toasted King Neptune with a generous dose of champagne and we all shared in the remaining libations.
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