As a way of spicing up the long voyage to Australia everyone on board was invited to take part in the ceremony of ‘Crossing the Line’ on the night their ship passed over the equator to enter the Southern hemisphere, bringing the Poms ever closer to their final destination; literally transporting them from one side of the world to the other which must have been a momentous occasion.
The ceremony harked back to ancient times when sailors would offer gifts to Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, to persuade him to keep them safe and bring them to land without mishap. So it was called ‘Neptune’s Journey’ and started to be a feature of the trip from the time the early immigrants sailed in the 1800s. As the years went on it became more sophisticated and elaborate. People devised fancy dress to wear. They partied and played the fool, often hurling each other into the ship’s pool and paying amusing forfeits to the chief participant who would be dressed up as a bearded Neptune wearing a golden crown and wielding a trident.
After so many weeks at sea the passengers would have made friends and got used to socialising with each other. Their sense of excitement and anticipation at the prospect of their new life would be growing and they would be aware that the longest part of their journey was behind them so they joined in the festivities with enthusiasm. Everyone was presented with a formal certificate to mark the date they crossed the line. There must be lots of these historic documents still in the possession of Ten Pound Poms. Has anyone out there still got theirs stashed away somewhere? If so, what memories does it conjure up?
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