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Crossing the Line

Informal naval ceremony associated with crossing the equator.

The origins of the ceremony of crossing the line are unclear, but it was well established on English ships by the turn of the eighteenth century.

The ceremony involved ducking in the sea all those aboard ship who had not previously passed the equator.

A stick was securely fastened to a rope that was passed through a block attached to a main yard. Those to be ducked had the stick passed through their legs, on which they were hoisted up and dropped several times into the sea.

Needless to say, the ceremony was only performed in relatively calm weather.

Men fearful of being dropped in the sea could escape by paying a fine, used to buy food and drink for the ship’s company when they were next ashore, or the purchase of rum or sweetmeats from the ship’s purser


Prepared by: Turnbull, P
Created: 4 October 2001
Modified: 11 October 2001

Published by South Seas, 1 February 2004
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: Paul.Turnbull@jcu.edu.au
Prepared by: Paul Turnbull
Updated: 28 June 2004
To cite this page use: http://nla.gov.au/nla.cs-ss-biogs-P000059

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