Monday, December 08, 2008

That Naval Cousin Scott

Mick's cousin Scott enlisted in the Navy almost two years ago. (See "Netty's Brag Page" January 30, 2007.) He's out on a ship right now and sends us these great email updates. An early one was about piracy off the Somali coast, another was about when he was Sailor of the Week (Mmmm hmmmm, everybody say, Go Sailor!), and most recently about a revered Navy tradition, Crossing the Line. Here's what he wrote about that:

Today we crossed the equator. There was a ceremony where all the people who haven’t crossed (pollywogs) got harassed subjected to various torture by those who have already (shellbacks). At 0530 we were to get up, don inside-out coveralls, and wear our “wog” shirts decorated with team spirit material. It was all in good fun of course. Here are some pictures. One is a high speed torpedo evasion drill.

And then he emailed this followup Wikipedia-type explanation for Crossing the Line
- and of course we respect the ceremony all the more now, Scott. :)

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The ceremony of

Crossing the Line is an initiation rite in the Royal Navy, U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and other navies which commemorates a sailor's first crossing of the equator. Originally the tradition was created as a test for seasoned sailors to ensure their new shipmates were capable of handling long rough times at sea. Sailors who have already crossed the equator are nicknamed (Trusty) Shellbacks, often referred to as Sons of Neptune; those who have not are nicknamed (Slimy) Pollywogs.

The two-day event (evening and day) is a ritual of reversal in which the older and experienced enlisted crew essentially takes over the ship from the officers. Physical assaults in keeping with the 'spirit' of the initiation are tolerated, and even the inexperienced crew is given the opportunity to 'take over'.[citation needed] The transition flows from established order to the controlled 'chaos' of the Pollywog Revolt, the beginnings of re-order in the initiation rite as the fewer but experienced enlisted crew converts the 'Wogs' through physical tests, then back to, and thereby affirming, the pre-established order of officers and enlisted. Like the old physically- and emotionally-intensive boot camp, the "Crossing the Line" ritual deconstructs then reconstructs the initiates' experience from newbie outsider into the experienced military fraternity.

The eve of the equatorial crossing is called Wog Up-Rising and, as with many other night-before rituals, is a mild type of reversal of the day to come. 'Wogs' - all of the uninitiated - are allowed to capture and 'interrogate' any shellbacks they can find (eg, tying them up, cracking eggs or pouring aftershave lotion on their heads)

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I wonder if Scott's a Shellback now that he's presumably gotten the Pollywog treatment? Or, wait, is it the Shellback that gets the treatment from the Pollywog? Whatever the case, this Rogue Reynolds chick has thought about something unusual today, thanks to her favorite sailor.

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