By Leading Seaman Helen Frank, Royal Australian Navy, Pacific Partnership 2011 Public Affairs
ABOARD USS CLEVELAND, AT SEA-- Davey Jones arrived aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS Cleveland (LPD 7), carrying with him orders from his master, King Neptune to cleanse the ship of its pollywogs, or landlubbers who had yet to cross the Equator.
The ship entered King Neptune's realm of the Equator April 9, angering the king. He would only be appeased by a ritual cleansing before he would allow the multi-service and multi-national crew of Pacific Partnership 2011, a U.S. led humanitarian aid mission.
Not even the civilians aboard were exempted from His Majesty’s wrath.
This scene filled with tradition and drama is a precursor to a ceremony known as ‘Crossing the Line.’ Navies around the world hold line crossing ceremonies when a ship crosses the Equator. Early equatorial line crossings were used as a tool to determine if new crew members were brave enough to endure the hardships of life at sea. Today, line crossings have a less serious undertone.
During the Crossing the Line ceremony, all pollywogs were treated to a special breakfast, provided an opportunity to get some exercise, encouraged to participate in some group singing, and get a good dousing in salt water.
'There wasn't as much old food involved today as in an Australian crossing the line ceremony, but it was longer, wetter and just as much fun,' said Able Seaman Medic Daniel Foley, an Australian shellback.
The night before the crossing, all pollywogs took part in a talent show and then as the sun began to rise the next morning, they were gathered together by the shellbacks and the fun began. After completing some small tasks and getting very wet they were presented to King Neptune who sat alongside his queen on the flight deck.
'It took me about twelve times to get through all the stations,' said Information Systems Technician Second Class Paul Cummings, a U.S. Sailor and pollywog. "I'm one of those people everyone knows, so they kept sending me back to the start."
King Neptune congratulated each newly initiated shellback and then sent them on their way to a warm shower and clean clothes.
“It was more than I expected,” said Corporal John Bevan, a pollywog from the Australian Army. “It was really good. There was a great sense of camaraderie among the pollywogs.”
This crossing the line ceremony is possibly the last for Cleveland, as the ship is due to decommission upon returning to San Diego. Command Master Chief Hassan Lamont said it was great to play King Neptune one last time.
“It was a lot of fun today,” he said. “It was a whole lot different than last time, we had a whole different crowd, and there were Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen and even civilians. It was a lot of fun.”
After the ceremony was over, the ship's Fist Class Petty Officer Association hosted a steel beach picnic.
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