Crossing the Equator

'Crossing the Line' ceremony
'Crossing the Line' ceremony on the Oriana.
Image: Marion Ross
Source: Jeffery Ross

The final leg of the journey out to Australia included a celebration when crossing the Equator. Everyone was involved, as it tended to alleviate the boredom of life on board the ship. And by this stage people had come to know each other quite well and some of the initial shyness and inhibitions had been broken down.

The origins of this ceremony go back to ancient times when sailors were very superstitious and made obsequious pleas to the God Neptune, the ruler of the seas, to bring them home safely.

'Neptune's Journey' or crossing the Equator has been a feature of immigrant voyages since the 1800s, However, it became increasingly elaborate in the twentieth Century, as shipping companies sought to attract more passengers.

Initially, the celebration was largely a recognition that the equator had been crossed safely and a significant part of the long journey was over. However, as the journey became safer, the ceremony became more entertaining and took on the flavour of the period.

Presently old Father Neptune made his appearance dressed in full regalia. The crown on his head was dazzling in its brightness and the trident he carried was a formidable affair.
– Thomas Park migrated from England in 1852.

In one 'Crossing the Equator' ceremony, the crew were dressed in flowing robes or grass skirts and had painted faces. Passengers who volunteered were covered in shaving cream, shaved with razors and then thrown into the pool. Everyone received a certificate to mark the occasion.

The following is a program printed on board the Fairsea, a Sitmar liner, and distributed to the passengers on December 13, 1964.

Grand Equatorial Ceremony
Hear Ye! Hear Ye!
All loyal subjects of His most Serene Majesty King Neptune are requested to come to the Sun Deck at 4.p.m and bow in submission to their Liege Lord.

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Crossing the Equator certificates