Fun Extras!
Date: 01 March 2001
Topic: Equator Crossing - A letter from Mrs. Joan Linsley

Notes on Crossing the Equator

Since you are supposed to be along with me on this journey, I thought you might enjoy experiencing the Equator Crossing. I am not sure where this tradition began, but it has had to be since the equator was determined.

Anyone crossing the equator on a ship experiences this ceremony in some form or the other. On the old sailing vessels, the men were dunked into the ocean. A friend of mine who was in the navy for many years described his experience as actually starting the day before the crossing by the pollywogs (those who have never crossed the equator) trying to locate the “Jolly Roger” flag. Once they found that, they could harass the shellbacks (those who had crossed the equator and had been through the ceremony.) by cracking eggs over their heads. They had to crawl through old garbage all the while being sprayed with water hoses.

Crossing the Equator on the JODIE Resolution

Ours was messy, but not as disgusting as crawling through garbage. On February 27, we were told to report at 12:45 outside the science lounge with our clothes on backwards and inside out with our underwear worn on the outside. There was some improvisation with that bit. As I mentioned on the broadcast, only a three in the science party had crossed the equator previously, at least half of the technicians were new, and one crew member had not crossed so there were around thirty of us to be initiated.

King Neptune was Dr. Isern, one of our Chief Scientists, and our operations manager who is a nice-looking man played the queen, but he was one ugly queen by the time he was made up and dressed in a strange outfit. Two of our female technicians were dressed as the princesses and one other played the sheriff who brought us individually before King Neptune’s Court. The yoeperson was the bailiff who read our charges and one of the engineers was dressed as the baby.

The people and all the rest who had been through this had big water bottles they used to soak us. As each was called to face his/her trumped-up charges in front of the Court, we had to crawl and face the court. They asked us how we pleaded, but they all said we were guilty and had to be punished. They closed us in the science lounge and took us out one at a time. Supposedly the doctor’s defibrillator would deliver shocks while we screamed for the sake of those behind the doors.

Then we were blindfolded and walked to the moonpool deck where eggs were smashed over our head and put down our backs and then guided into a huge tub of drilling mud, all the time blindfolded. The attendants dunked the men, but they were more gentle on the women and just poured the mud over our heads. We then, still blindfolded, and absolutely covered with mud, then guided to a seat where one of the engineers handed us what was supposed to be an electric conductor and told us to sit on a stool indicating we were to get another shock--it was air. The blindfold next came off and we had to pay homage to the court and kiss the baby’s belly.

Finally, we could go to the shower on the deck and watch the rest of the event. During this time, the other Chief Scientist Dr. Anselmetti was tied to the shower along with another one of the scientists. At the end, all those in the court and the attendants were bodily picked up and dunked in the mud. In fact, I think they were worse off than we were because most of them were dunked numerous times.

We will have a card and a certificate as proof we were initiated and officially made shellbacks so we do not have to do this again should we cross the equator in a ship. The drilling mud has an interesting texture and it is difficult to wash out of hair. Several of us commented that our hair seemed greasy even after being washed two or three times. It would be wonderful for a mud fight.

The End of an Adventure

Our ship is steaming right along although our seas have been a little rough most of the day. Another event I commented on is the silk screening of t-shirts with the logo on it that won the contest. The only person who knew what to do was the doctor so we made an assembly line to prepare the shirts, she silk screened them, and others hung them to dry. They now are hung by string all over the core lab waiting to be ironed to set the pattern. The photographer normally leads this, but, if you recall, she left early with an incapacitated arm.

These events are all going on while the scientists are trying to finish reports and get ready to start their research upon arriving home. We are due into Guam on Friday, March 2, 2001, around 1400 hours. Do you know what time that is?

One of the strange feelings occurred to me when I was preparing the script for the broadcast--we had crossed the equator and now were in the Northern Hemisphere so it was winter. On one side of the imaginary line, it was summer and on the other side, it was winter, yet the conditions were identical. Everything is being cleaned on the ship so there are not many places we can stay other than on deck or in our cabins. The library floors were cleaned earlier, but I took off my shoes and came in anyway so I would have a place to write this.

The next crew and science party will be in Guam by the time we arrive or shortly thereafter. The technicians and crew stay on board until the new group arrives and they discuss any problems they may have had and what they did about them. Then, the old group leaves for their homes throughout the world for two months to return to another port and repeat the whole process again. Many in the science party will disembark as soon as possible upon arrival in Guam and go to a hotel. Most are leaving within the next couple of days for their homes also throughout the world. Locating the homes and figuring the distance to them of all of these people would be an extensive geography lesson in itself.

Again, I hope you have enjoyed your Distance Learning Adventure with the Ocean Drilling Project and have learned the importance of the study of science and how it helps you to understand and appreciate the earth on which you live. Thank you for your participation; I know I thoroughly enjoyed the entire trip.

-Mrs. Joan Linsley