The Ceremony

These ancient and boisterous ceremonies are primarily a crew's party. Those who have crossed the Line (of the Equator) are called "shellbacks." These Sons of Neptune compose the cast for the ceremony, which (in ships of the merchant marine) can be somewhat crude and rough. Aboard the Gabrielle, with "civilians" (and possibly ladies) present, it will be moderated slightly. Starkweather, Moore. the captain, most of the officers and sailors, anyone with previous Antarctic experience, and persons
born in the southern hemisphere have already crossed the Line.

The eldest and most dignified member of the (non-officer) crew is selected as Neptunus Rex; his first assistant is Davy Jones. Her Highness Amphitrite is a good looking young seaman, dressed in seaweed and rope yams. Other members of the Court are the Royal Scribe, the evil-looking Royal Barbers, the equally villainous Royal Doctor and Royal Dentist, the Royal Baby (the fattest member of the crew), the Royal Navigator, Neptune's Officer of the Day, the Judge, two Attorneys, the Devil, Sea Nymphs (to attend Queen Amphitrite), the Royal Police, elc.. and the Bears, who have the task of rounding up the "uninitiated" and generally manhandling them.

The night before the ship crosses the Line, Davy Jones will appear on board with a message to the captain from His Majesty, Neptunus Rex. Summonses, folded up in the form of a subpoena, are distributed to the lubbers aboard. Each will be accused of amusing "crimes" to fit their profession, nationality, personality, or background. Examples include "daring to operate flying vehicles over My seas without License," "not partaking of sufficient Social Lubricant in Mixed Company," "wearing a tie while engaged in Honest Work," or "being absolutely unfamiliar with nautical Ways and Customs."

King Neptune's Court

On the next day, the shellbacks will have erected the Court on the main deck aft. At eleven thirty, the navigator reports that the ship is "on the Line," and Davy Jones appears again. Jones reports (through an officer) to the captain that Neptunus Rex and Party have been sighted ahead. The Flag of Neptune. bearing a trident, is raised when Neptune and Court appear on deck (from the fo'c's'le, where they have been preparing). "Shellbacks" not part of the Royal Party gather to watch the festivities. Neptune and his Court proceed slowly aft, with much mock courtesy and court procedure. The long-bearded King Neptune himself is encrusted with barnacles. wears a crown and carries a trident. Upon meeting Davy Jones, Neptune booms forth with, "Well, well, what a fine ship and what a cargo of landlubbers'" A ship's officer salutes and reports with much dignity that the captain awaits the Royal Party.

The Royal Party is escorted to the throne, and ascends. After bestowing awards on a few distinguished veteran seafarers ("Stoker Carlsson! Step forward! In recognition of your many years of service in my domain, I award you the Order of the Royal Conch! Officer of the Day, give Stoker Carlsson his conch and a beer!"), Neptune gives a short speech about this voyage to the edge of my great world-ocean." Initiation then commences, with officers first. The Bears have the duty of rounding up any shirking landlubbers. The Gabrielle. being of Swedish registry like the stoker, bottles of beer will be passed out in celebration to the spectators and to newly initiated shellbacks. The actual initiation ceremonies could be uncomfortable for the easily embarrassed. They begin with the landlubbers crawling through a canvas tunnel filled with slimy seaweed and other cold nasty things, while the tube is pummeled by the Bears with pieces of old fire hose. to emerge in the midst of the Court. One by one, the lubbers will be seated in a chair at the edge of a canvas tank of sea water. A shaved head from the barber, some pokings and proddings from the doctor, a drop in tht dousing tank (of the "throw the ball at the trigger" variety), and some small electric shocks received from the Devil's pitchfork, constitute the most memorable features.

Afterwards, the new shellbacks receive their certificates, resembling a diploma signed by the captain, Neptune. and Davy Jones.

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