Crossing the Equator

© Tara Expeditions Foundation

19 August 2016

This Thursday, August 18, 2016, at 14:00 UTC, for the 9th time in her existence Tara crossed the mythical frontier of the equator – the occasion for a festive celebration, “baptizing” the neophytes as sailors traditionally do.

Since leaving Buenaventura a few days ago, the subject came up more frequently in discussions.The equator, “The Line,” as it’s called at sea. More important than knowing exactly when we would get there, our focus was to identify neophytes, those who had never crossed the line. Obviously, passing the equator in an airplane doesn’t count. “That’s too easy.” Of the 10 people aboard Tara today, 6 would be undergoing the initiation for the first time.

The ritual of the line has been firmly rooted among sailors for centuries. At an epoch when passing into the other hemisphere meant diving into the unknown, initiating inexperienced sailors helped reduce fears, and at the same time united the crew. In changing hemispheres, apprentices entered the circle of experienced sailors as if joining a brotherhood.


Credits Yann Chavance - passage ligne-1This Thursday, August 18, 2016, everyone gathered in the wheelhouse to see the GPS switch to 0 ° 00.000 N, indication of crossing the equator. – © Yann Chavance / Tara Expeditions Foundation


Over the centuries the passage ceremony has evolved, taking different forms according to the ships and trades. But certain essential rites were always maintained: the presence of Neptune, god of the sea and oceans, and his wife Amphitrite, and also a ceremony of purification with sea water. On some ships the celebration lasts several days, resembling a joyful carnival for old-timers, and a series of challenging tests for newcomers. Aboard Tara on August 18th, the 6 baptisms took place in a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere.


Les six néophytes ont eu le droit, après un rituel soigné, d’obtenir un diplôme attestant de leur premier passage de l’équateur.After a special ritual, the 6 neophytes obtained a diploma certifying their first crossing of the equator. © Yann Chavance / Tara Expeditions Foundation


Once the “bizus” were installed on the back deck behind a tape symbolizing The Line, a potbellied Neptune led the ceremony, assisted by an improvised Amphitrite and a masked executioner. Like for a secret society, the rituals of the equator-baptism must remain confidential, hidden from the outside world. Let’s just say that the rite of passage this time included, among other things, raw fish, a smelly mixture to be eaten (as required by tradition) and a lot of sea water.


Fabien Lombard, l’un des six taranautes à passer l’équateur pour la première fois, récupère son diplôme tout en haut du mât.Fabien Lombard, one of 6 Taranauts crossing the equator for the first time, gets his diploma at the top of the mast. – © Yann Chavance / Tara Expeditions Foundation


After passing many challenging tests, each of the 6 ex-neophytes got a diploma certified by Neptune that he was now an experienced sailor. The diploma had to be retrieved at the top of the mast, 27 meters above the deck, an appropriate way to close this rite of passage. During the 2 years of the Tara Pacific expedition, the schooner will cross the equator a total of 4 times. And each time Tara’s deck will welcome this joyous ritual.


Yann Chavance

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