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King Neptune

Subj. Rewind to last week-end

Date: 10/28/009:50:15 PM Pacific Standard Time

From: [email protected] (Gordon Bain (on Aurora)

Hello all my fans out there

We are well into our work at Davis now but I won't write about that till it is all over.

So let's go back to last Saturday which was going to be a busy day. And so it was, we little wee bears were so exhausted.

Mid morning we had our weekly muster drill -when the alarm bells were sounded all expeditioners have to put on their warm Antarctic clothing, get their life jackets and gather at the predetermined location -usually the helicopter deck and as it was in this case. The ship is divided into two muster groups -port and starboard depending which side of the ship their cabins are on. It was very cold out on deck -probably minus 10 degrees and there had been a fair bit of snow. Gordon checked off all the names of people who were in his muster group and then reported to the officer. The ship's 3rd mate then spoke briefly about liferafts and other emergency craft used for evacuation if necessary .When all the expeditioners were dismissed, many of them decided to have a snow fight -throwing snowballs around at one another. It was fun -OzGold and I got hit a few times.

Just after lunch we were to have a gathering of all the soft toys on board -a number of us got together but the event did not draw many people and it also clashed with the opening of the postoffice -lots of people went to that -to buy stamps and envelopes and things.

A bit later Gordon gave his talk on the history of Australian Antarctic aviation again -only a few people but they were certainly interested.

In the evening the big people had another party in the bar. This time it was actually a talent night -or should I say a No Talent night. There were some very funny acts which people put together. Because the soft toys were going to be paraded we were allowed to watch the performance -Gordon had OzGold and I on his head inside a funny sort of a woolen hat. It was a good place to see things from.

Monday was a very, very funny day.

Gordon and a few others worked out plans for the visit of King Neptune and his Queen. Really it wasn't King Neptune visiting us but rather because we were entering his kingdom or realm. King Neptune is of course king of the sea and all those who cross the Antarctic Circle must pay him homage, but also have to be purified and forgiven for the sins they have committed in relation to the ocean -throwing rubbish in and other polluting acts.

Those people who had previously been in King Neptune's kingdom were excused from the rituals but had to be there to bear witness for the newcomers. This is how the ceremony worked (all key characters were in costume but you'll have to wait for the pictures) - Officer on Watch made a PA announcement that as we are about to enter the realm of King Neptune  - all expeditioners were to assemble in the restaurant.

Clerk of the Court of King Neptune: arrives, summons all to attend and listen. He then read the purpose of the gathering -telling people that they had to atone for the damage they caused to the marine environment and that King Neptune demanded that they atone and be purified before they could be allowed to enter his kingdom He then called all 35 newcomers (and two bears) to gather at the far end of the restaurant and wait instructions.

Then with great shouts and noise two or three expeditioners burst in carrying fearsome implements -large axes, ropes, bolt cutters, surgical instruments, buckets of grease, a cargo net and so on and laid these out on a table. We were all quite terrified about what was to happen to us with all those fearsome things!!!

Clerk: "Let it be known that from the salty depths we stir, your ship makes speed but time is ours. And all that cross the veil of the South must stand before the Ocean's Law. King Neptune, Ruler of the Southern Ocean and its winds, shall take the right to cast an eye upon all those of sodden feet who wish to cross this southern realm and land on icy shores".

All the newcomers were then ordered to go into a room the other side of the restaurant -there we were guarded by two very large and fearsome men - with masks and baseball bats and we were told not to talk, but only listen.

Gordon told us later that while we were going into the lock-up room King Neptune and his lovely Queen arrived and took their place at the end of the room. While we were out of the room these things happened:

King: (thunderously) "Who dares to bring new vassals to my Kingdom? Why have you not sought leave before now? Where is your Leader?"

Voyage Leader Suzanne had to crawl on her hands and knees across the cargo net and grovel, paid homage and tribute; ask leave to bring forward persons seeking admission.

The King said he would allow this to happen but only if the Voyage Leader wore his special necklace -which comprised some prawns and a fish on a string.

Clerk: Called for the first group of six to come forward. Minders round up group from the back room and they were forced to lie face down on the cargo net with their heads pointing to the King. The crowd were shouting and yelling things and those of us who were still waiting didn't know what was going on but it sounded awful.

Clerk: Then called each person in the group in turn: "Rise to your knees. ... (name). Bow and walk on your knees to pay humble and due honour to the Realm".

The newcomer had a cup of very, very cold seawater poured on their head, Sometimes with an ice cube down the back of the shirt. [Gordon was doing the water bit, the rat!!] They then had to kiss a fish which was attached to the Queen's foot!! King Neptune then demanded they swear absolute allegiance to the King and kingdom etc. and only when they said "yes" did he allow them to rise.

Each newcomer in turn was given a necklace with a prawn on it and had to kiss the King!!!

Clerk then announced to each in turn that King Neptune was pleased and declared that they had paid humble and due honour to the Realm and were admitted.

Gordon then gave each person a signed certificate.

And so all the groups were brought out from the room and put through the same treatment. The same applied to OzGold and me.

When all had been done the Clerk said: "So it pleases us that the holders of these certificates are now dubbed South Polar Sea Dogs, to take pride in the brine that will now course through their veins. And that the same South Polar Sea Dogs will be seen as true and trusted salts respecting all and will know the snaggletooths and sea devils as friends. You may now take your right and proper place amongst the old South Polar Sea Dogs and bear witness for those who seek admission to this kingdom".

The King: then welcomed all holders and declared they can pass into his Realm.

So it wasn't as painful as people were trying to tell us and from what we believed when we saw all those dreadful tools and things and heard all the noise and racket.

So, I've been allowed into King Neptune's Kingdom and have a Certificate to prove it. So has OzGold.

It was really fun.

And straight after that while everyone was still gathered, the Chief Mate Peter Dunbar said that he wanted everyone to dig deep into their pockets and offer money so that Gordon could all the hair cut off his head. People had already been warned of this and Gordon asked that everyone give generously because all the money was for a good cause -Camp Quality and rather than have lots of heads shaven, all effort and money would be concentrated in one head -his.

So the bids and offers were called in and written down. When it was added up Gordon said that wasn't really enough and think about those poor kids with cancer who lose their hair with chemotherapy and who have such an uncertain future. So more bids came in. When it looked like it all stopped, Gordon said OK he would accept that and the haircutting could start. So Peter Dunbar wielded the clippers and shaved Gordon's head completely, then shaved off the mustache he has had for 31 years and the eyebrows he has had all his life. There were lots and lots of pictures taken and some extra money was pledged.

And so it was done. All in a good cause -Gordon is such a good sport. We estimate that with some money promised by people at Kingston Head Office,  the total money raised was about Aus$3000. Very well done -that should ease the pain for some children if it helps pay for some special outings or wishes.

Bye for now.




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