Day 8 |
Oct 19, 2008

At Sea

By Toby Musgrave

Position: 02° 40’.3’N 81° 15.5’W

Overcast, breezy and with occasional squalls, 25°C / 77°F and 79% humidity

This day at sea en route for Isla Plata in Ecuador was the perfect opportunity to take it easy, to enjoy all the facilities aboard the Prince Albert II, and to attending one or all of the three lectures offered by our Expedition Staff and Guest Lecturer, Jon Bowermaster.

After a gentle start to the morning, Claudia Roedel began the day’s lecture programme in The Theatre at 09.30 with the second in her series of lectures outlining how to get the best out of your digital camera and how to take great photographs. At 11.00 it was my turn, with a lecture entitled ‘Plants that Changed the World’, the story of tobacco, sugar, cotton, tea, opium, quinine and rubber, and how, as products, they were the facilitating or enabling factors that saw the emergence of Britain as the world’s first super power and the establishment of America.

Then, after such intellectual stimulation, it was time for a much-deserved lunch - well, it was for the guests. But for yours truly and ship’s photographer Valerie Muhin, it was time for our transformation into King Neptune and his wife, Amphitrite. A couple of hours of industrial make-over in the salon and at the various hands of hairdresser, beauty therapist and everyone else who wished to contribute their two pennyworth, and we were ready for our first (and only) date.

The occasion of such seeming frivolity was in fact a very serious one. At 15.00 it was time for the ceremony of ‘crossing the line’, overseen by King Neptune, Amphitrite and their dazzling court of pirates, mermaids, royal surgeon and royal barber. This rite of passage saw the ‘pollywogs’ - those who have not previously crossed the equator, initiated and confirmed as ‘shellbacks’. On this occasion we had five who were ritually cleansed and kissed the fish at a ceremony in which King Neptune held slightly prematurely as the actual crossing was due to take place about nine hours later in the middle of the night of the 19th / 20th.

After the ceremony was concluded with the ceremonial dunking of various court members in the hot tub, it was into the shower for a furious scrub in attempt to remove the make-up before sitting in on Jon’s fascinating introduction to ‘Cargo Boat Cultures’, a conversation and film about how the most remote places on the globe stay connected with the rest of the world.

Recap and Briefing followed at 18.30 and revealed more about the equator and traditions, and introduced tomorrow’s programme before we all retired for a well-deserved dinner.