Cruise Report # Thirty- two– Day 56 – Thursday, November 15, 2007

At Sea in the Pacific – Crossing the Equator

From the Ships Navigator

Today we will continue sailing on a north-northeasterly course with an average speed of 20.5 knots towards Kona, Hawaii. This afternoon we will cross the equator at approximately 2:00pm. The weather forecast calls for an outside temperature of 79 degrees and a moderate breeze blowing from the east with a force of 4. Of course by the time we crossed the equator, it had warmed up considerably. More like 90 degrees.

Crossing the Equator

As the center point of the earth, the equator is also the center of the tropics, the area lying between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, at 23 degrees 11 minutes north and south of the equator. The climate in the tropics varies; some areas have heavy rainfall, and others are very hot and dry. The sun’s heat near the equator easily evaporates water from the oceans, so the hot tropical air is also moist. This is why there are rain forests at the equator. Also at the equator, the sun’s rays are unaffected by the tilt of the earth, so the area is always exposed to the sun and receives direct solar rays year-round, regardless of the season. He heat is most intense at sea level, but as you move into the mountains, it can get also very cold, and s no can fall.

Overseeing the equator is King Neptune (known in Greek mythology as Poseidon) and in time-honored seafaring fashion, we will host a ceremony to ensure a safe passage. The festivities are marked by the appearance of King Neptune/Poseidon, Chief of the Water Deities. His symbol of power is the trident – a spear with three points on its head. He uses this staff to shatter rocks and call for, or subdue storms. Neptune created the horse and upon these powerful creatures, with their brazen hoofs and golden manes, drew his chariot over the sea, which became smooth before him. This could explain the tradition of seafaring merrymaking, honoring Neptune in return for safe passage and smooth waters. Poseidon knows that we crossed the Equator early in our voyage without his permission and now returns to exact his revenge! There must be a sacrifice and the ship’s staff has searched from bow to stern to find the perfect offering.

Shortly after 2:00pm, a long blast on the ships whistle signaled our crossing, and right on time King Neptune and attendants arrived to sit in judgment of the “pollywogs” that had been ferreted out from the bilges where they had been discovered cowering in fear. When the ships Captain and Staff were seated as the jury, the court of Poseidon came to order. Two by two, the pollywogs were brought forward and their charge sheet was read. Before their verdict was presented, by either a show of thumbs up or thumbs down, by the jury the defendants were required to “Kiss the Fish” amid shouts from the assembled “Shellbacks”. In the courtroom (the aft deck, lido pool) stood a pedestal of carved ice on which was mounted a large dead fish. The attending guards brought each pollywog forward, the fish was kissed and then they were led to tables on either side of the pool and their bodies were slathered with all manner of “garbage” from the ships galley. Then the jury voted on whether they were to be thrown “dumped” into the pool or made to sit and bake in the searing equatorial sun. Most were dumped, all jumped into the pool at the end of the ceremony. Later that afternoon a “Certificate” was presented to each passenger and crew designating them as “Shellbacks” with safe passage insured. Well, we must have not sacrificed enough pollywogs, because the farter north we sailed that evening, the rougher the seas became. One of the ways to tell if the sea is going to get rough is the appearance of “barf” bag dispensers at the handrails by the elevators. They were out that evening, and for the next couple of days. However, by now I do not think anybody gets seasick.

The ceremony was quite a bit saner than those held on US Navy ships as they cross the equator; however, that is a story for another time. I received my “Shellback” certificate back in December of 1964 on a Navy Icebreaker, off the West Coast of South America on my way to winter-over at Palmer Station in Antarctica.

The Green Flash

In this part of the Pacific, the weather conditions seem to be favorable enough for the “green flash” to appear on the horizon just as the very tip of the sun sets. From our vantage point by the aft windows in the dining we were “favored” by this unusual sight. We witnessed the green flash on two subsequent evenings this week. What a thrill. I hope that we will see another one tonight, as the skies are quite clear this afternoon.

Bad News for Some

In the past 56 days some of us have accumulated “excess baggage” in the way of gifts for family and friends, gifts from Holland America, and just a batch of souvenirs, to say nothing of the extra weight around our waists. Those having to fly home are now faced with having to pay for “overweight” baggage fees on heir homeward flights. To ease theses costs these passengers were planning on taking boxes of these items ashore in Honolulu and shipping them home via USPS, UPS or FedEx. After the Captain’s 1300 hours announcement today, our cruise director followed up with the announcement that “management” had received word from customs and immigrations officials in Hawaii that no packages or suitcases would permitted to leave the ship until our arrival in San Diego. Since Barbara and I will be taking the train home, this announcement does not concern us. However, I did just see Barbara pass where I am writing this report carrying a large cardboard box. Hmmm., I guess we did not bring enough suitcases for our……stuff.

Till we arrive in tomorrow Kona, where our Verizon cells service returns, we bid you a fond Aloha,

Jack and Barbara

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