Mission to Africa – Line Crossing Ceremony

Post Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Victoria Bonk.

This week we ended on a traditional note, we celebrated becoming Shellbacks. About 75 percent of the crew started this week as “slimy wogs” (those who had never crossed the equator on a ship at sea) and ended it as “Emerald Shellbacks.” The events started Thursday and ended with a barbeque on the flight deck as we crossed the equator Friday evening.

Wog uniform

Crewmembers aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk stand on the flight deck in their “wog” uniform of the day, which was their operational dress uniform and cover inside out and socks on their hands. U.S. Coast Guard photo by OS3 Vicente Arechiga.

Sailors become Shellbacks by crossing the Equator; however the CGC Mohawk crossed the Equator and Prime Meridian at the same time, turning these wogs into the much rarer and highly vaunted variety; “Emerald Shellbacks”.

The Equator line crossing ceremony is a seagoing tradition that is international in character and of long standing duration – its origins date back hundreds of years. It is considered a traditional service “initiation ceremony.” The ceremony is meant to be fun, build bonds between crewmembers and give participants some good sea stories. It is also a way of honoring those professional mariners who have come before us.

“This time-honored tradition is a ceremony I feel truly blessed to be a part of with my fellow shipmates,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Jamie Parlett, an electronics technician aboard the Mohawk. “As well as creating unity amongst the crew, it gives us all a moment to laugh at ourselves. We create memories amongst each other that will last a lifetime.”

whale call

Crewmembers aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk line up on the flight deck and make sounds like a whale to call to the whales as part of their shellback ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo by OS3 Vicente Arechiga.

“From wearing make-up and doing the hula, to swimming in indiscernible smells, we had a blast and now it’s the slimy past,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Rodgers, an electronics technician aboard the Mohawk. “We are now the Emerald Shellbacks.”

It’s with great honor and humility we join some of the saltiest sailors to ever lived and became Shellbacks. It was wild and at times smelly and gross but worth it.

In addition to our shellback ceremony we had a few crewmembers who pinned on their permanent cutterman’s pin. The pins they were given dipped in salt water from the equator so that they will develop some green verdigris in the crevices, as long as they never polish their pins.

“Making cuttermen at the equator really symbolizes what being a cutterman is all about; personal and professional development and the opportunity to have unique life-changing experiences in places and situations others in our service can only imagine,” said Robert Hendrickson, the commanding officer aboard the Mohawk.

PA3 Victoria Bonk, CGC Mohawk



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