Down thru the years navy's of the world have had traditions that have held fast to present times. Initiating new sailors into the realm of King Neptune,crossing the equator is one such tradition. No one knows the exact origin of this ceremony but it is said to go back to the Vikings who initiated young seaman while on long voyages across the oceans to pillage other lands. Some early Mediterranean seaman have had initiations in passing thru the straights of Gibraltar which is probably where the "Mysteries Of the Deep" stem from. The traditions of the US Navy have it's roots in the Royal Navy of Great Britain and so to does our equator crossing ceremony. Those who have crossed before and been initiated and accepted into the realm of King Neptune are called "Trusty Shellback's". Those who have yet to cross are known as "Slimy Pollywogs". Pollywog is a fitting name since it is a baby frog which has yet to sprout it's legs. The Pollywog is the lowest creature in the sea. The initiation takes most of the day with the pollywogs waken early in the morning and given their breakfast served on plates on the deck. The morning fare is little more than an inedible potion or hot sauces and old bits of whatever, usually hotdogs that have been left out a little too long. When breakfast is finished the slimy things are taken up on deck, the forward part of the ship, Foc'sle, and given a shower with firs hoses on the salt water line. Then on their hands and knees are made to crawl along one side through a gauntlet of King Neptune's Trusty Shellback's who are armed with shillelagh mostly cut from old ships fire hoses. These hoses can really burn a backside. With luck the Pollywog will only go through it once and not be called back or made to repeat for the amusement of any one shellback. Once through the line of Shellback's then comes the tunnel which is filled with garbage that had been hidden and stored for as long as possible. Pollywogs might not have had a lot to eat for breakfast but many still manage to lose what was in their stomachs in the tunnel. The small ship I was on was in rolling large seas and it was purposely steered through the toughs so to make it roll from side to side. This made going through the tunnel extra hard since it was very slippery and rolling back would make one slide back. Once out you saw the Kings Doctor who would give you a potion much like breakfast. Then your face was rubbed in the Baby's Belly, one of the heavy sailors usually had that job. After being hosed down a pollywog is then accepted into the realm of King Neptune and forever after a Trusty Shellback.
Another part of the ceremony is the Miss Pollywog contest. A Pollywog from each division on the ship is chosen to represent that division in hopes of being crowned the Queen. They are dressed up and paraded around and the Shellback's chose their favorite. This seemingly humiliating experience does have it's advantage as none of the Miss Pollywog contestants need to go thru the gauntlet or the other rituals. They are spared the asswhipping.
On Shellback Day all officers and men are equal as Shellback's or as Pollywogs and everyone from the Captain down will have to go through the course. That's the rules set down by King Neptune and carried out by Davie Jones.
At right is an original certificate belonging to Ken Weekly, given to all new Shellbacks. It states date, name, ship and longitude crossed. Lattitude is always 00000
Below are some pictures sent in by Ken Weekly then OSSA. The date was 6 May, 1977. Longitude crossed was 119º 16'. Commander Merlin Bell was CO of Morton but this day he was just another "Slimey Pollywog" and like all the rest would end the day a Trusty Shellback as theyhad entered the realm of King Neptune and met with Davie Jones.
Morning Bathtime above
Left and below are some lovely Miss Pollywogs. Well lovely maybe if you have been at sea far too long.
A Slimey Pollywog no more. Now a proud Shellback
That's OS3 Jeff Trumble in the red gown.
This subpoena was given to Weekly and a few others for throwing rotten eggs at a Shellback. OSC Wilkerson
Below are from an earlier year, looks like 72-73. I apolagize to whoever sentme these but I seem to have misplaced the notes about them. I do recognize one OSSA Jim Lavign in shorts walking buy the hatch on a color photo. If whoever sent me these sees them please contact me again. Thanks