Equator Crossing

(crossing-the-line)

 

The equator is an imaginary line on the Earth's surface equidistant from the North Pole and South Pole. It divides the Earth into a Northern Hemisphere and a Southern Hemisphere. The latitude of the equator is, by definition, 0. The length of Earth's equator is about 24,901.5 miles.

The crew of the USS Stokes (AKA-68) crossed the equator at 0251 hours on 14 March 1945, Latitude 000000, Longitude 1630200 East, and all Pollywogs were properly imitated by King Neptune and his court, thus becoming Shellbacks.

The ceremony of “crossing-the-line” is a time-honored historical tradition of the U. S. Navy and other navies of the world commemorating 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.

A traditional rite of passage ceremony is carried out to appease King Neptune, the mythological god of the seas. "King Neptune and his court" (usually including his first assistant Davy Jones and her Highness Amphitrite and often various dignitaries, who are all represented by the highest ranking seamen) officiate at the ceremony, during which the Pollywogs undergo a number of increasingly disgusting ordeals (wearing clothing inside out and backwards; crawling on hands and knees on nonskid-coated decks; being swatted with short lengths of fire hose; being locked in stocks and pillories and pelted with mushy fruit; crawling through chutes and large tubs of rotting garbage; kissing the Royal Baby's belly coated with axle grease, hair chopping, etc), largely for the entertainment of the Shellbacks.

Once the ceremony is complete, a Pollywog receives a certificate declaring his new status as a Shellback. Another common status is the Golden shellback, a person who has crossed the equator at the 180th meridian (International Date Line). On New Year's Eve, 1999, USS TOPEKA (SSN 754), an American fast attack submarine, crossed the equator at the International Date Line exactly at midnight, making the crew of 120 men "Golden Millennium Shellbacks" - a feat that cannot be repeated until the year 3000.


Thanks to Robert E. "Bob" Ellis, BM1, USN, Ret., a member of the ship's crew, for providing the following documents on the USS Stokes "crossing-the-line" on 14 March 1945:


Click on the document for a larger view, use your BACK button to return.

USS Stokes Plan of the Day March 11, 1945  USS Stokes Plan of the Day March 12, 1945  Attics at the crossing
Plan of the Day (POD)
for 11 March 1945
Note #1

Plan of the Day (POD)
for 12 March 1945
Note #2
Antics at the crossing
STOKES LATE DISPATCH, 15 March 1945 STOKES LATE DISPATCH continued, 15 March 1945 The Royal Court Crossing the Equator
STOKES LATE DISPATCH
15 MARCH 1945
STOKES LATE DISPATCH con't
15 MARCH 1945
The Royal Court
Crossing the Equator
14 March 1945
Photo by: Axel Anderson, EM2



Thanks to Byron Schiesz for providing the following certificates on his late grandfather, Joiner, Otis J., S2c, USNR. These membership certificates were issued to each crew member after completion of the "crossing-the-line" ceremony:

Domain of Neptunus Rex certificate Order of the Golden Dragon certificate



Thanks to BM3 James M. Tietz for providing these photos on "crossing the line" initiation. (see his other photos in "Crew Photos" link). Click on the image for a larger view, use your BACK button to return:

Crossing the Equator  Crossing the line initiation  Crossing the line initiation  Crossing the line initiation 
Crossing the line initiation  Crossing the line initiation  Crossing the line initiation  Crossing the line initiation 
Crossing the line initiation  Crossing the line initiation  Crossing the line initiation  Crossing the line initiation 
Crossing the Equator  Crossing the Equator  Crossing the line initiation