An initiation rite, the line-crossing ceremony marks a person’s first crossing of the Equator. It’s possible that the custom began with rites when going around headlands and evolved into a “folly” sanctioned as a morale booster, or that it was created as a test for seasoned sailors to ensure their new shipmates could handle long, rough voyages.

Equator-crossing ceremonies, which usually feature King Neptune, are popular in the Navy and are occasionally performed for the pleasure of passengers aboard civilian ocean liners and cruise ships. They’re also used in the merchant navy and on sailing training ships.

Line-crossing ceremonies have occasionally turned into dangerous hazing rituals throughout history. Physical attacks on sailors participating in the line-crossing ceremony are prohibited in most modern navies.

Photo credit: Shamal SuDhammika

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