"NOW HEAR THIS"
Title: The Equator
Published: July 1996
By: Lyle Davis
How many remember the POLLYWOG’S initiation into the “Ancient Order of the Deep”? this took place on January 11, 1942 while the Savannah was bound south at 37°16’ west longitude and 00°00’ latitude. On that day we actually crossed the equator 34 times. We ran a zigzag course back and forth all day long (notes from log book).
Every pollywog was charged with some type of crime and had to plead his case before His Majesty Neptunus Rex, Ruler of the Deep. Personally, I was charged with – “warbling classical music unfit for the ears of shipmates, and, printing illegible characters calculated to confuse all members of the Royal Party. And, attempting to steer a course to avoid meeting his Majesty, Neptunus Rex.”
Ancient Order of the Deep Card
Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum
I pleaded not guilty to these trumped-up charges, but a rigged Shellback jury found me guilty on all counts. I was quickly sentenced. The punishment – once through the gauntlet, on your knees and beg for forgiveness, through the sail cloth tunnel and on to the salt water showers. There was no chance for appeal, even though I was never read my rights or had an attorney present during this arraignment.
Now this gauntlet stretched from the #2 turret all the way to #5 turret, starboard side. It was lined by Shellbacks swinging whips made from folded and layered sail cloth that had been soaked in salt water to provide some stiffening. (We were dressed only in skivvies or swim trunks.) Every time you were slapped with one of these whips, it stung like a devil and you were left with a bright red blotch where you were hit. Each of us ran as fast as we could through this gauntlet. At the #2 aircraft gun position, the two men immediately in front of me slipped and fell. I, of course, fell on top of them. In so doing, my right foot hit the gun shield breaking one of my toes. I managed to hobble through the remainder of the gauntlet, but was given no sympathy whatsoever. I was sent to the fantail and told to get down on my knees in front of His Majesty Neptunus Rex and beg for forgiveness.
His Majesty just turned his head and waved me away with both hands. Davey Jones with his assistant sent me through this tunnel crawling with my elbows flat on my belly. This tunnel was 20 to 30 feet long and it had been filled with garbage and some form of solution which smelled like rotten eggs.
From the tunnel we went on to a hose down with salt water but we all had to remain topside until all pollywogs had completed their initiation. This all took place on a hot sunny day and many of us got a bad sunburn. Those who complained about the initiation after it was over were issued T.S. chits to see our Chaplain.
Does anybody remember who acted as Neptunus Rex and Davey Jones? Certainly some of you plank owners must.
Lyle Davis, “N” Div.