Of February 9 we celebrated Neptune Day. Neptune Day is a tradition that started with the Royal Navy, US Navy, and the US Coast Guard for those sailors crossing the equator for the first time. Crossing the Line ceremonies were actually pretty brutal initiations akin to hazing, but we participated in a much milder form of the initiation, of course. First, the crew woke us in the morning with whistles, yelling, and pounding on our doors. We were all ushered up to deck 7 aft (the pool deck) to see the crew all decked out in costumes as King Neptune’s subjects and were informed that, as pollywogs, we would need to perform a series of tasks to be allowed to cross the equator as trusted Shellbacks. First, we had (fake, but still very smelly) fish guts dumped on our heads. Then we were to kiss a fish, jump into the pool, climb out, kiss King Neptune’s ring, bow to the queen, and touch another fish. Finally we were deemed Shellbacks with a touch of a sword, like being knighted. The last (optional) step was to shave your head! I participated in all but the last step, but a lot of people went bald, including quite a few girls! That evening we were treated to burgers, ribs, hot dogs, baked beans, and ice cream out on the pool deck. On top of it all, we had no classes! It was wonderful. The next day we crossed the equator as initiated trusted Shellbacks.
We reach Namibia the day after tomorrow! I will be camping in the desert, watching the sky in the best place in the world to go stargazing, accompanied by a trained astronomer to tell me all about what I am looking at. And you thought your Valentine’s Day plans were good!