Royal Order of Purple Porpoises
The Ancient Order of the Purple Porpoise certificate that the Okeanos Explorer team received as they crossed the junction of the Equator and the International Date Line at the Sacred Hour of the Vernal Equinox. Image courtesy of Bruce Cowden. Download larger version (4.1 MB).
In the annals of seafaring history, there are many rites of passage and traditions passed down through generations of sailors and explorers. Many are practical, some are symbolic; but nearly all are acknowledged by other seafarers as being representative of capability, experience, and fellowship.
One of the oldest traditions that encompasses these qualities is participating in Line Crossing ceremonies, where vessel and crew cross through particular areas within the Earth’s gridded boundaries of significance over the seas, such as the Equator, Arctic and Antarctic Circles, Prime Meridian, and International Date Line. Other areas of significance can be exotic bodies of water and canals of the world.
Several of the crossings and their particularities are listed below:
- The Order of the Blue Nose for maritime personnel who have crossed the Arctic Circle.
- The Order of the Red Nose for maritime personnel who have crossed the Antarctic Circle.
- The Imperial Order of the Golden Dragon for maritime personnel who have crossed the International Date Line.
- The Sacred Order Of The Golden Dragon for maritime personnel who have crossed at the same time Lat. 00-000°, Long. 180.00°
- The Order of the Ditch for maritime personnel who have passed through the Panama Canal.
- The Magellan’s Strait Jacket Club for all maritime personnel who transited the Straits of Magellan.
- The Order of the Rock for maritime personnel who have transited the Strait of Gibraltar.
- The Safari to Suez for maritime personnel who have passed through the Suez Canal.
- The Golden Shellback for maritime personnel who have crossed the point where the Equator crosses the International Date Line.
- The Order of the Sand Squid for maritime personnel who have been attached to army units or stationed in the Middle East.
- The Emerald Shellback or Royal Diamond Shellback for maritime personnel who cross at 0 degrees off West Africa (where the Equator crosses the prime meridian)
- The Realm of the Czars for maritime personnel who crossed into the Black Sea.
- The Order of Magellan for maritime personnel who circumnavigated the Earth.
- The Order of the Lakes for maritime personnel who have sailed on all five Great Lakes.
- The Order of the Spanish Main for maritime personnel who have sailed in the Caribbean.
- The Order of the Sparrow for maritime personnel who sailed on all seven seas. (North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Pacific, South Pacific, Indian, Arctic, Antarctic Oceans)
- The Order of the Ebony Shellback for maritime personnel who have crossed the Equator on Lake Victoria.
- The Royal Order of Purple Porpoises for maritime personnel who crossed the junction of the Equator and the International Date Line at the Sacred Hour of the Vernal Equinox.
When crossing the Equator in particular, all sailors who cross during a nautical voyage must undergo rites of passage and elaborate rituals initiating them into The Solemn Mysteries of the Ancient Order of the Deep. Those who are uninitiated are referred to as “Pollywogs” or “Slimy Wogs,” while those who have previously performed the initiation rituals are “Trusty Shellbacks.” “Trusty” typically is a reference used to denote inducted sailors who can rely on each other, after together being tempered and forged, earning acceptance from King Neptune and his Royal Court.
In modern times, these traditions of ages past have faded as societal mores have evolved, particularly in regard to the intensity of indoctrination. Nevertheless, today many Shellbacks still hold true to the belief that at minimum, Line Crossing ceremonies still remain full of shenanigans, tomfoolery, creativity, and camaraderie. In the end, the Pollywogs have atoned for their trespassing into King Neptune’s realm without permission, and become part of the Royal Order of the Deep.
On March 20, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer and crew had the rare opportunity to achieve one of the rarest of all Line Crossings, The Royal Order of Purple Porpoises. While in the area of Howland and Baker Islands at this particular time of year, the Okeanos will cross the junction of the Equator and International Dateline at the time of the Vernal Equinox.
In researching the history of Purple Porpoises, few vessels have reported this accomplishment. Many were Navy vessels in this area of the Pacific during World War II. The Okeanos crew eagerly looks forward to joining this rare order and celebrates those who made the journey before them.
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