Rovingpatrol's Blog

How To Become A Shellback

Posted in Uncategorized by roving on March 7, 2009

Everyone is a Pollywog until they cross the equator aboard a ship. Then you become a Shellback. It was a tradition originally  created as a test for the seasoned sailor’s to make sure their new shipmates could handle long rough times at sea. The things they make a pollywog do, I fail to see how that is a test of anything. Maybe things were done different a century ago.

I served aboard the Destroyer USS Dupont pictured in the header of this blog.

The day before the crossing we held a beauty contest.  It was all in good fun. We had no idea what was in store for us the next day. If we did, I doubt we would of been laughing and joking around. The people pictured are still polywogs.  (The man in the middle won.)

I was standing the 4am-8am watch the day we crossed the equator.  As soon as I was relieved, I had to put my pants and shirt on backwards,  my shoes on the wrong feet.  After the ceremonies began, you soon forget how uncomfortable that is. Once its over, we threw everything away.

They started by making us all kneel down and breaking eggs on top of our heads, calling us names and smacking  us with a piece of fire hose.  No sailor is forced to participate but the ones who didn’t were looked down on as cowards. I went through it myself but didn’t look down on the ones who backed out.

We were on our hands and knees the whole day. On ships they have what is called non skid. Its really hard and rough. Sorta like being on your hands and knees on small gravel.

They continually hosed us down with fire hoses while dropping eggs from above on us. We had to crawl from the bow of the ship to the stern. Some gave up. It makes no difference who you are. Even officers who have never crossed goes through this. As a matter of fact our captain had never been across the equator. They were a little extra rough with him from what I heard.

There were only really two gross parts to the whole thing. The first one happen halfway through. They pick the two fattest sailor who are a  shellback, put some kind of green goop on his stomach. I think it may have been peanut butter mixed with horse radish and food coloring. In the belly button is a cherry. We must get that cherry out using our mouth.

The main problem is he grabs your head and pushes your face deep into his belly and smears your head all over it.  After that, there was no turning back. I was going to finish it even if it killed me.

The 2nd one was worse then the belly epeisode. They had saved up garbage for a week. They put the rotted food in a long chute. It reminded me of a slip and slide.  They put a apple in your mouth and you must still have that apple in your mouth when comeing out from the other end. As your going through it, the people on top are beating you trying to get you to drop that apple. If you come out with no apple, you must go through it again.

Inside the chute, was rotted food along with vomit from other sailors who went in it before you. The smell was overwelming. I came out of the chute covered in garbage and puke but still had that apple in my mouth just like the guy in the picture.

Once we get past the garbage chute, we become a shellback. A true blue sailor. We walk over to a fire hose they had hanging down and stand under it to rinse ourselves off. After changing into clean clothes there is a celebration cookout that night.

For the ones who were afraid to go through it the first time across, they had a second chance when we crossed over. It wasnt as bad as what we went through. They didnt have to crawl all over the ship and there was no garbage chute. It also lasted only a few hours. If I had known that, I may have waited for the return trip.

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  1. Anonymous said, on July 7, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    I have been across the equator 6 times in USAF Aircraft! Am I still a “pollywog?”
    A retired “Mustang” Naval Aviator.

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