Thursday, September 22, 2011

Neptune Day: Crossing the Equator at the Equinox

Blog Entry #18: Neptune Day: Equator & Equinox

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Neptune and his Court
Our first day out of Ghana, many of us on the ship passed a milestone: crossing the equator for the first time on a ship.  Even more special, we crossed 0 degrees Latitude (the Equator) at roughly 0 degrees Longitude: on the Greenwich, England Longitude line which runs through Tema, Ghana, and divides the world into Eastern and Western hemispheres.  And what’s more, we crossed almost exactly at the Equinox, so we went from the last days of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, to the last days of Winter in the Southern Hemisphere, and we are now enjoying the first days of Spring as we approach Capetown; Autumn got eliminated entirely this year! (we’ll pick it up again when we cross the Equator again in a few weeks on our way to India).

Celebrated as “Neptune Day” on the ship, we were greeted early in the morning by raucous sounds from the ship hallways where the crew members were dressed in various aquatic costumes and ringing bells and playing instruments to rouse us from our slumber.

We were to report immediately to the pool area of Deck 7 where most of us were to lose our ignominious status as “Pollywogs” – ones who have never crossed the Equator at Sea – to Shellbacks – tried and true ocean voyagers.

Baptized with Fish Guts from the Crew

Will Avery kisses the Fish!
There at Poolside King Neptune had assembled his court, and he directly his orderly to baptize each of us by pouring fish guts over our heads (ugh), then dunking in the pool. 

Pat kisses the Fish
We then departed the pool to “kiss the fish” of the Royal Court, and swear loyalty to King Neptune and his Queen. 

Dan & Pat Baptized with Fish Guts
Plunging into the Pool

Following this many of the newly minted Shellbacks celebrated further by getting their heads shaved – so just as I was getting names down for many of my students, they have reappeared in completely different visage!

Dan's Vertical Shadow at Noon on Equinox
The other remarkable phenomenon about crossing the Equator at the Equinox, is that at noon, the sun is directly overhead, so it casts no shadow on objects.

Waves nearly reach the Lifeboat

Two days after crossing the Equator the seas became noticeably rougher as we moved into the South Atlantic.  Stirred up by winds that blow north from Antarctica, waves are high and winds cool and blustery as we head south to Capetown. 

Waves reach our cabin window
Teaching classes by day and sleeping at night have become quite the challenge as the ship rolls from side to side under us.  Seasickness is now rampant on the ship; fortunately Pat and I have largely escaped it, and the biggest challenges consist of walking down hallways, remaining on one’s feet in the classroom, and not rolling out of bed at night.

We are only 12 hours away from landing in Capetown, South Africa!  My only other visit to Capetown was in 1992 when apartheid was still the law of the land.  I look forward to being back and seeing what changes have occurred 17 years after South Africa first elected Nelson Mandela and began democratic government.

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