Stories from the ship around Africa

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Neptune Day!! (Tuesday, October 22, 2002)

One of the things that we have noticed is that tradition is a powerful presence when living life on the sea. One of those traditions is Neptune Day, which is for "first timers" crossing the equator by ship. Ships of all sizes take the day off to celebrate the crossing the equator and all "initiate" any "Poliwogs" that may be among them. In order to be initiated and accepted into King Neptune's realm (becoming a "Shellback"), one must first pass a very interesting process.

Various members of the shipboard community are selected to play the roles of King Neptune and his Royal Court. Any Poliwog (someone who has never passed the equator) must run a gauntlet that usually includes fish substances being poured/dumped/crawled through, being hosed down by fire hoses, kissing a fish, and in our case kissing Queen Minerva's feet! And in the most traditional fashion, the head must be shaved!

In our case, we had an 8:00 am boatdrill to get everyone out of bed. All of the passengers where then "encouraged" to proceed to the pool deck by the crew and some of the kids banging pots around the ship. Once everyone was on the back pool deck, King Neptune and his court entered behind the Royal Guards who were banging drums and blowing their whistles. Shell and I were asked to be a part of the court and play the roles of the Royal Fish Bearers. We were to hold the fish (real, dead ones!) and ensure all that passed through the ceremony paid homage to the sea and kissed the fish. The other members of the court were as follows:


Once the entrance procession was finished, everyone lined up at one side of the pool and the initiation process began. People were covered with a thick, liquid substance that was unknown... however dead, rotten fish products were a major part! You then climbed into the half-filled pool and got hosed off with fire hoses. Once climbing out of the pool you proceeded to kiss the royal fish (our lovely part in this event). The last process was to crawl before the King, performing any commands he wished (kissing his feet, the Queens feet, his Ring, more fish, etc.) and then being annointed a "Shellback" by the Chamberlin.

Shell and I had a great time taking part in the ceremony! It was fun to see everyone's reaction to kissing the fish. Most everyone did it without hesitation, but there were those who seemed to enjoy it a little too much (tongue was given) or who did not want to touch the fish (Shell and I made them kiss it anyway!). Once everyone had gone through, Shell and I took off our costumes and ran through the gauntlet ourselves. The fish "stuff" was pretty disgusting, although I don't think it was really that bad (Shelley disagrees with me, however, as she nearly puked in the pool from the nasty odors!). We were then officially "Shellbacks". From what I heard, the initiation process for other ships (especially the Navy) can be quite memorable (yet also much worse!).

After the initiation was over, the head shaving began for those who wished to participate. There was no requirement for this part of the ceremony, yet there is usually always about 100 people (moslty guys) who want to shave their head. They had a raffle and a few people were the first to get their head shaved by the Captain. After they went, the mass shaving began!! At one point there was about 8 people shaving heads continuously. There were even a few women who decided to join the festivities. Now your probably saying to yourself, "there's no way Brian or Shelley would do that". For Shell, there was never any thought. But I had actually been going back and forth for a few days on the subject, and when I woke up that morning, I was not going to shave my head, but then I said "what the hell!" and I GOT MY HEAD SHAVED!! That's right, as I am typing this story, I have no hair on my head! While the head shaving was occurring, I called up to our room while Shell was showering, and asked her if she would divorce me if I shaved my head. She said she didn't want me to but that if I did it I better wait for her. A few minutes later my mind was made up. As soon as she got down to the deck the hair began coming off. Shelley even made the first few passes with the clippers, removing a good chunk off my front (of course, after asking me several times if I was sure of myself). ha Our friend, Bill, who had a bit more experience with the clippers finished the job while Shell got the whole thing on video. Overall, it was a pretty fun experience. I had been worried that I was one of those who would have a head that should not be uncovered, but overall I don't think I look too bad (that's just my opinion) and Shell didn't divorce me. ha ha I think Shell is getting used to the look though and actually did agree that if I was to ever shave my head, this was probably the time and place! She still looks at me funny sometimes...says the "look" still catches her off guard!

The rest of the day was pretty mellow. There were no classes and Shelley closed her office for the day. The lab was open for a limited time so work was pretty easy. We relaxed on the deck for a while, played some volleyball and basketball and had a very fun day. And yes, I put plenty of sunscreen on my head!!!

Basketball/Volleyball Tournament Update

The Faculty/Staff basketball team had its second game of the tournament on Neptune Day. This game was much more difficult than our first game but the old guys came out on top again. The score was 12-8 and it was a back and forth game untill the last few minutes when we pulled ahead a little. They made a quick comeback but we responded. Our next game will be in a few weeks.

Shell and I also had our second volleyball game of the tournament the evening after Neptune Day (Wed, October 23). Again, we were victorious with a score of 21-17!

Not too shabby for two "old" staff people!!! ha ha