The Mysteries of Ontong Java

Equator Crossing-Birthday-Halloween and Seafloor Mapping

Mark Heckman
Nov. 01 2014

Sometimes you have to multitask. On the 31st of October, the science party and ship’s crew of the Falkor had a series of objectives to accomplish. We were in transit to Guam, but continued mapping on 24-hour duty. We crossed the equator at the start of the voyage and again the previous day, yet many of the science party and ship’s crew were still slimy Pollywogs, necessitating a rigorous Crossing the Line ceremony to become trusty Shellbacks. It was yet another crew member’s birthday and it was Halloween, certainly an occasion not to be missed.

King Leonidas and friends.
King Leonidas and friends.Mark Heckman

To take these in order, right after lunch came the Crossing the Line ceremony. In the image you can see the Pollywogs, never having crossed the equator on a ship, chained to the deck awaiting their fate. King Neptune’s court includes a judge, whose basic instinct was to hang, behead, shoot, keel-haul, walk the plank, stone, burn, dissect, flog, or otherwise severely punish all 15 Pollywogs accused of various infractions. Although all were pronounced guilty regardless of their protestations, the defense attorney could argue for a lesser, although also grueling sentence for each accused with fealty to King Neptune’s court. King Neptune, with a large pointy trident, enthusiastically oversaw the proceedings, assisted by his court on the fantail.

Third Officer Erik Suits faces sentencing in King Neptune's Court.
Third Officer Erik Suits faces sentencing in King Neptune’s Court.Philipp Guenther

The ceremony involved lashings, being eyed by a very dead fish at the feet of Neptune’s wife, and more; I leave the rest to your imagination. Falkor Third Officer Erik Suits was honored to have his Halloween birthday on the same day as his crossing and received special attention. May your own crossings be successful and memorable.

A jubilant King Neptune lords over the slimy pollywogs.
A jubilant King Neptune lords over the slimy pollywogs.Philipp Guenther

As we moved into evening it was time to switch mode to Halloween. The theme this year was Famous Movie Characters, although some leeway was granted given that costume materials on ship were a bit limited. Still, creativity blossomed and a number of entertaining costumes were created. We were graced with a Minion, the Anglerfish from Nemo, Mulan and the girl from the village at the pass, Popeye the Sailor, Jack Sparrow, the Dude, Jimi Hendrix, Pippi Longstocking, and Tina Turner showed up, but with wings (no explanation on this). There was also a Zombie, Jesse from Toy Story with working pull string and barcode, and a dead King Leonidas of Sparta.

Jimi Hendrix and Jack Sparrow.
Jimi Hendrix and Jack Sparrow.Mark Heckman

The chefs created an amazing buffet with knuckle cookies, salmon fly traps, slaughtered cow spoons, pagan pig, and more. The science party and ship’s crew took a moment to relax and enjoy the evening, relieving each other on watches and other duties to eat or be entertained by the costumes. Ultimately King Leonidas of Sparta won the popular acclaim for best costume. Perhaps it was the arrows superglued to his side that showed his resolve. Thankfully they seemed to come off with minimum loss of flesh. The ship traveled on towards Guam and mapping continued into the night. There is always more uncharted ocean bottom to discover.

The new trusty Shellbacks have survived the ceremony.
The new trusty Shellbacks have survived the ceremony.Mark Heckman


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