As we sailed from Panama to Ecuador, many of the Enrichment Voyage participants woke up to quite a commotion when the crew ran up and down each deck, clanging pots and pans and pounding on doorways. What most of the shipboard community did not know is that today marked a very important occurrence, Neptune Day, the crossing of the Equator which comes with various rites of passage.
And lucky for me, I didn’t have to go through them again as I was already a shellback!
Those of us who had been through the ceremony on the MV Explorer before—the seasoned shellbacks if you will—got to convene early early early in the director’s office to get suited up for the day’s events.
Some of us had more prep than others, by way of green body paint!
One of Semester at Sea’s founders, Dr. Lloyd Lewan, resumed the position of King Neptune, a role he has played many times in his decades with the program. Rita Enders, who was on her 20th voyage, was his Queen Minerva. Staff who have crossed before served as the “royal court,” or goddesses of the sea.
Another shellback, Dr. Louis Patler, gave a brief description of the event and read Neptune’s creed, to which all pollywogs were required to respond with a hearty “aye!”
Then, field office coordinator Jennifer Mowad stepped forward as the sacrificial initiate. After being showered with a bucket of undecipherable green slime, Jennifer jumped into the pool to rinse off, then kissed a dead fish before also kissing King Neptune and Queen Minerva’s rings.
The rest of those scurvy pollywogs followed her lead.
Some people opted not to participate, but not those enthusiastic, musical boys from The Exchange. They were all about getting slimed (no doubt, an effect of growing up in the Nickelodeon generation)!
Another facet to the crossing ceremony includes having one’s head shaved by the royal barbers, which a number of pollywogs bravely opted to do. This included our noble Enrichment Voyages director Nathan Blessing, who only joined the program earlier this year and thus had never crossed the Equator before.
After all the willing pollywogs had been initiated—and the deck was filled with chunks of newly-shorn hair—the goddesses sacrificed their king, who in turn jumped into the pool himself and changed the water to a murky shade of green.
Of course, he was made to pucker up and lay a big one on the fish, as well.
It was a brilliant morning. Neptune Day is undoubtedly one of the events Enrichment Voyage and Semester at Sea participants look forward to most, and I already can’t wait till my next stint at sea when I get to initiate a whole new group of unsuspecting victims (*cue evil laugh*).