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 Crossing the Line 
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Post Crossing the Line
Interesting article here: Book of Days

It is worth having a look around the site. Lots of interesting information, some of it navy related.

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susan


Fri Mar 11, 2005 7:43 pm
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Thanks for the link, Susan.
It also raises the question as to how someone like Hornblower handled crossing the line (he only did it four times in his career, all while in command of the Lydia on his Pacific adventure), but it is left out of the canon.
Also, I haven't seen any mention of Bolitho (Richard or Adam) facing Neptune's wrath.
More's the pity.
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Charity


Tue Mar 15, 2005 4:56 am
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While ostensibly in a work of fiction, Frederick Marryat describes the ceremony of crossing the line in "Frank Mildmay, Or the Naval Officer" in Chapter XII. While presenting this as a case of the ship crossing Tropic of Cancer with no intention of sailing further south and for that reason the ceremony being held in conjunction with "Crossing this line," it is an interesting account by someone who actually lived it.
He goes into excellent description of the appearance of Neptune, Amphitrite, their attendants and the manner in which they are welcomed on board by the ship's captain.
Also, it discusses how some officers bought off the indignity with a bottle of rum.
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Wed Jun 22, 2005 5:42 am
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Fiction, I realise, but Smalley covers it in HMS Expedient.

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Thu Jun 30, 2005 5:37 pm
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Post Crossing the Line Ceremonies
There is an account of a crossing of the line ceremony on the USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides") during January 1799 HERE.

There is another account of this ceremony on an English ship in 1784 HERE.

At the second website, the following comment was made:
The earliest mention of a baptismal, propitiation or initiation ceremony dates from 1529, though similar ceremonies are believed to have been customary in European waters before this time, being performed at such distinctive places as the Straits of Gibraltar, the Sound and the Skaw.

Has anyone heard of ceremonies at such places?

Don


Thu Jun 30, 2005 7:18 pm
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Post Did not always take place
In "Landsman Hay -- The Memoirs of Robert Hay 1789-1847" edited by M. D. Hay, Robert is aboard HMS Culloden in 1804, under the flag of Admiral Edward Pellew, when the equator is crossed. His comment: "No shaving ceremony at crossing the line was allowed." No reason is recorded by Hay. As he is a 15 year old servant to two warrant officers at the time, maybe the reason was not explained to him.

There was no indication of bad weather or sea action although this did take place during war-time.

It appears that the Admiral or Flag Captain had some discretion for this ceremony and could cancel it if desired.

Don


Sun Jul 03, 2005 7:39 am
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Does anyone know if the French and Spanish navies had a similar tradition? I believe the U.S. Navy did (correct me if I'm wrong). I was on the forecastle (or whatever the correct modern day terminology is) of the USS Carl Vinson where the windlass for the anchor chain is and there was a painting of the ceremony on one of the walls, if I remember correctly.

Edit: Sorry. I just saw Don's reference to the U.S. Navy above.

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Last edited by susan on Tue Aug 09, 2005 12:17 am, edited 2 times in total.



Mon Aug 08, 2005 11:38 pm
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Post Re: Did not always take place
timoneer wrote:
"No shaving ceremony at crossing the line was allowed." No reason is recorded by Hay. As he is a 15 year old servant to two warrant officers at the time, maybe the reason was not explained to him.

There was no indication of bad weather or sea action although this did take place during war-time.

I believe Basil Hall discusses this. I could be getting his account confused with someone else's (maybe Marryat?), but, I believe that the "rough stuff" (shaving, dunking in the sea, etc.) was increasingly frowned upon by the "gentleman" officers.

The extent of the ceremony did depend on what the captain felt was proper for his particular ship.

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Mon Aug 08, 2005 11:58 pm
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In "Memoirs of a Seafaring Life – The Narrative of William Spavens" the ceremony of crossing the Equator for the first time can be avoided.

Those who never crossed the Equator before were ducked and subjected to other horseplay unless they paid a forfeit, usually a "pound and a pint" (of sugar and spirits respectively) to make punch.

The sugar and spirits from all who paid the forfeit were combined into a punch or toddy called a "bumbo" which was drunk by the rest of the crew.

Spavens was a British sailor in the 1750’s and 1760’s aboard warships and merchant ships including British East Indian Company ships. I’m not sure how long the forfeit continued aboard English ships; this book does not say.

Don


Tue Dec 06, 2005 10:09 am
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From Thomas Pasley’s "Private Sea Journals"

Saturday, April 7th. (1781)….Passing the Tropic of Cancer the Sailors requested some fun; I did not admit Ducking as the Ship went too fast -- every other amusement I had no objections to. A Neptune or King of the Tropic with his attendants paid me a Visit before I had done dinner, with Drums, Fiddlers, and bagpipes, and made me a thousand Speeches. They dressed in high Taste, as we had in the morning very fortunately Sheered our Sheep, which furnished Him and court with all kinds of magnificent Wigs &Ca. I complimented them with two Gallons of Rum, received a thousand Bows and as many thanks from his Tarry Majesty, who retired dancing with his Ministers of State.

With bagpipes being played, there must have been a Scotsman or two present. :D

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Sat Apr 29, 2006 9:25 am
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I think Pasley was a Scot.

I'd certainly have a piper if I was a captain. LOL!

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Sun Apr 30, 2006 6:28 am
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susan wrote:
I think Pasley was a Scot.

Susan, you are correct! I failed to check out his birthplace when I started reading the book. Pasley was born at Craig, near Langholm, Dumfrisshire (southern Scotland). That noted, it would have been unusual if he "didn't" have a bagpipe or two aboard!

Don


Sun Apr 30, 2006 7:44 am
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I have found some details of the French ceremony in Narrative of a Voyage Round the World in the Uranie and Physicienne Corvettes, Commanded by Captain Freycinet, During the Years 1817, 1818, 1819, and 1820 by Jacques Arago (translated to English). Arago was the artist on the expedition.

As in the French ceremony for crossing the Antarctic circle, it seems the peas/corn as hail was traditional:

"An abundant shower from the buckets that were in the tops punished the sailors on deck for their curiousity, while a deluge of hail, represented by Turkey corn, was reserved for us. Our fowls and ducks, which were put that day on short allowance, were the only creatures on board that had reason to dislike the festival."

I thought the following bit was interesting. The ship as well as the people had to submit to the ceremony!

"In vain did the king of the line enjoin silence, which a whistle from the boatswain instantly obtained. The name of Captain Freycinet was proclaimed. He was asked if his ship had already had the honour to pass the line; and on his answer in the negative, four soldiers went up to the windlass, and with hatchets struck the mast near which it was placed. A few pieces of money, dropped by the captain, appeased the wrath of the monarch, and stopped the blows of the soldiers. What prodigies this magic metal every where performs!"

This bit is amusing as well as interesting:

"The other officers came next; and each, as he answered the priest [not a real one], was required to swear never to kiss a sailor's wife. To kiss was not precisely the term employed, but I substitute it for a more ticklish expression, used by the sailor-priest, to signify nearly the same thing."

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Sun Jul 23, 2006 8:49 pm
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From the British Library site: Crossing the Line

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Tue Oct 31, 2006 10:19 pm
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The ceremony was also carried out on HEIC ships. There is a detailed description in the article "Service Afloat" in the January 1830 United Service Journal. It is interesting to read that passengers were included:

"Among even the passengers, all with the exception of the aged or infirm, whatever their rank, must succumb, unless, and which is rarely the case, indulgence is purchased through the captain or officers by the medium of a douceur."

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Mon Apr 30, 2007 8:46 am
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