The R/V Thomas G. Thompson left Honolulu on November 5, 2011 heading toward the Western Pacific. This expedition journal written by cruise participants and uploaded about once per weekday, depending on internet availability.
November 12, 2011: The Realm of the Golden Dragon
Anyone who has ever spent any time on an oceanographic vessel has heard the tale of, or experienced firsthand, the infamous “Equator Crossing.” Going from a pollywog to a shellback is a rite of passage experienced by many a seasoned oceanographer, marine tech, or graduate student. Less well known is the transformation from Newt to Golden Dragon experienced when crossing the 180th meridian, the International Date Line. In fact, none of us, including Maurice on his 40th cruise, had ever crossed the date line. Some have been traumatized by an equator crossing at some point in their career, but pollywogs and shellbacks stood as equals on the bow of the boat yesterday at 13:30 while the crew initiated us into to the Order of the Golden Dragon.
For sailors, this can be serious business. There are very few things that can stop scientific pursuits on a research cruise, pull the chief scientist out of the lab, relieve the able bodied seamen (ABs) from their daily duties, and leave the watchstanding station abandoned (even for a short time). One of these things is tradition, and old, seafaring traditions must be upheld. So, we found ourselves at the mercy of our crew, mates, and captain for most of the afternoon. Our trials were quite tame, and I personally enjoyed myself. Davy Jones made an appearance, along with Calypso and, of course, king of the high seas, Neptune himself (complete with toga and trident). We encountered a fire-hose squall and found ourselves a little bit saltier. We measured the length of the R/V Thompson (all 274 feet) from bow to stern by all manner of sea creatures including a Slim Jim, a frozen sardine, a peeled banana, and a Carlos (one of the ABs). My group perfected the leapfrog technique and found that the ship was 549 frozen sardines long. We then carried dock lines from stern to bow and back in a relay, did an egg-toss, and had a pushup contest — cheating allowed. Did I mention that we had all been anointed at the start by the Golden Dragon with his luminous skin of Crisco and paprika?
After our trials of strength and skill, we were allowed to retire but were tasked with the job of creating a skit to entertain Neptune and his court at dinner. Calypso decreed the theme of the entertainment to be Back to the Future. We all scattered to scrape off orange Crisco, change out of wet clothes, and get creative. The cook and her team prepared an outdoor BBQ in order to continue the festivities. While the crew and science party mingled on the observation deck we rallied our inner thespians. My team, named the Baby Dragons, became the Thompson Travelers of Tomorrow, a time-traveling circus act, mostly because Dani can juggle and Davy Jones provided me with a perfect lion-taming switch. In addition, our talented group included a strong man, a backwards “tight” rope walker, a bearded lady, an acrobat (who actually did cartwheels on deck), a lion, and of course a master of ceremonies. Our act was presented completely in reverse. Other groups had inspired skits ranging from the capture of Jurassic Quiet Whales by the R/V Thompson represented ingeniously by the actors to a recreation of Back to the Future with the DeLorean as a water ski and villain Davy Jones defeated by whipped cream. The final performance was a parody of the day’s events along with the Hawaii to Guam cruise plan centered around the chief scientist herself.
Because Neptune was thoroughly entertained, we were all successful in our initiation and can now proudly call ourselves Golden Dragons crossing into the eastern hemisphere at 04:20:53 GMT (17:20:53 local) on 11-11-2011. ♦