The Judgment of Neptune

Fall New Moon of the Southern Cross

At 2 pm today the pollywogs, members of the crew who had never crossed the equator, heard their “crimes” declared as they came before King Neptune, the ship’s captain dressed in a Halloween style costume with long beard and trident. Neptune had a queen, dressed for décolletage in a sea-green dress.

An example of a crime should suffice. A ship’s 4th officer stood accused of steering the ship in the wrong direction, just because he could. Before passing judgment, Neptune decreed that each pollywog had to kiss the fish, a frozen tarpon on a bed of ice.

Several of the male pollywogs lifted the tarpon out of its icy bed and with a flourish planted a kiss on either its lips or elsewhere along in its body. A few of they younger female members of the crew, flailed their arms in disgust and quickly wiped off the offending fishy flesh. All were then smeared in some colorful paste, after which Neptune and his queen decided if they should be “dunked or survive.” Most of the time the pollywogs received dunking, at which point one of the pirates shoved them into the pool.

In the end all were brought before Neptune for final judgment. He forgave them all their crimes and decreed they be pollywogs no more, forever.

Since I had hoped to be included (on no evidence whatsoever), the ceremony disappointed me. It was, too, over the top in a way that might have been fun, but largely wasn’t. Kissing the fish came the closest to a real ordeal. Still, this is a long standing tradition among maritime crews and I enjoyed seeing it.

The captain says we will actually cross the equator between one and two o’clock tonight. At the moment our position is 2 degrees and 21 minutes N, 80 degrees and 16 minutes west. If I can, I may get up just to observe the moment, since this will be my first time.

Tomorrow we come to the port in Manta, Ecuador, a pre-contact city of 250,000 current population which has a large tuna fishing industry. We have no excursions scheduled here though we’ll probably take a shuttle through this working port, pick up another shuttle at the port entrance and see some of downtown Manta.

All of our ports so far since leaving the US have been working ports, meaning we can’t walk around the port area as is possible in cruise only ports like New York City and Ft. Lauderdale. We anchored off the San Blas islands and off Fuerte Amador, using tenders instead to get to land transportation. Some people find the working ports off putting, but I find the window they give into a nation’s economy interesting.

 

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