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Crossing the Equator

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Crossing the Equator

Postby Vice-President » 28 Jun 2012 18:00

Crossing the Equator

Throughout her long career as a warship in the United States Navy, our good ship KIRK criss-crossed the equator ("the Line") many times. As all mariners know, any ship that crosses the equator "trespasses" into the fabled "Realm of Neptunus Rex," the vast nautical domain presided over by that feared ruler, King Neptune. First-time interlopers are called "pollywogs" and these slimy, unworthy vermin require initiation and "cleansing" before they can be admitted into the realm. But once properly initiated, they are termed "shellbacks," and wear that exalted title for all time.

Here is an excerpt from the USS KIRK "Familygram" -- a letter from the Commanding Officer to the families of her crew, while KIRK was on extended deployment. The date is 2 July 1988, and KIRK's CO was Commander Larry W. Darling, USN (Larry is one of our KIRK shipmates in this USS KIRK Association, and provided copies of all his "Familygrams" for our archives):

"...as we approached the equator, a stenchful odor began to permeate the ship. The odor was coming from POLLYWOGS, the term given to sailors throughout the world who have never crossed the equator and who haven't been initiated into the "Royal Order of the Deep." It appears that we had become infested with eighty-three pollywogs aboard since crossing the equator last August. To wipe this stain off the good name of KIRK, we initiated all our "pollywogs" in the special time-honored traditional ceremony. On hand for the ceremony were King Neptunus Rex with Davey Jones and the King's court. All our pollywogs were found worthy to enter the "Royal Order of the Deep" and have become SHELLBACKS. Particularly difficult to initiate were LT Karkainen, of the Air Department, and STG1 Eubanks of Third Division. They were the senior officer and senior enlisted POLLYWOGS and they rallied their fellow pollywogs to revolt but, with odds of over 200 shellbacks to 83 pollywogs, the revolt was soon squelched. Following the ceremony we had a flight deck cookout to enjoy the warm weather the equator offers, and our hats are off to the Supply Department for providing their usual high standards of excellent food service."
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