Equatorial Virginity


Is there such a term?   On the cruise, we cross the equator on our way to French Polynesia. I have heard that was a special occasion for sailors of old, and was accompanied by some ceremony or rite of passage.  Crossing the Equator is noted specifically in the cruise documents, so I guess whatever it is related to is still celebrated in some manner, perhaps like our modern day Halloween, or Valentine’s day.   I thought I should check up on what exactly to expect.   :)

WHOA, it looks bigger than imagined, with all sorts of levels of participant hazing, ordeals, men dressing as women, and  ‘torture’ of ‘wogs’.....Wogs being those who have never crossed the equator before. The full name is Pollywog, and they represent the new outsiders - the lowest form of sea life; while the experienced seamen who are veterans of previous equator crossings are known as Shellbacks.  The whole thing boils down to an event where there is a reversal of order and the crew takes over the ship from the officers.  Lucky we are in the situation of this being a profit making venture where all of us paying passenger pollywogs will not have to undergo the full treatment.  I see all sorts of punishment mentioned – stocks and pillories, having to crawl through vats of rotting garbage, chopping off of hair.  In earlier times (19th century or before) the treatment of the Pollywogs could be quite brutal, with beatings, and accidental drownings by dragging in water.  ..  Not at these rates we are all paying!   :D

After the crossing, the Pollywogs are now called ‘Shellbacks’ , denoting they are now capable seamen, after having been initiated into the ranks.  


Crossing the equator at the 180th meridian (the International Dateline) results in the Pollywogs achieving an even higher and more rare status, as they are now known as “Golden Shellbacks.”  Unfortunately , it looks like we are too far from the 180th for our captain to take a small detour and arrange this particular crossing. We’d have to be headed for the Marshall Islands, or Kiribati instead. Oh well..

 Hopefully there will be occasion for some funny photos of this upcoming event!