Jessica Watson Crosses the Equator, Appeases Neptune

     Australian teen circumnavigator Jessica Watson is now a shellback. That's the term we other shellbacks use for the metamorphosis of a polliwog who crosses the equator.

     Wait, isn't that supposed to be a frog?
     Nope, any polliwog can turn into a frog. It takes a special one to become a shellback.

     Sailors have a lot of weird traditions about crossing the equator. A visit from King Neptune, dunking with salt water, and performing strange duties like eating a raw onion or, in our kids' case, whipped cream disguised by food coloring. 
         
DELOS meets Neptune.  Jessica dunks herself.  

     Jessica chose saltwater dunking and a cupful of slightly melted chocolate bars. The dunking was welcome. When you cross the equator, you have usually been making slow progress through the doldrums -- not much wind, lightning, and HOT -- for at least a few days. 
 
     What's more significant is that it usually means you have been at sea for weeks already. Life aboard has become routine:  same chores, same food, same crew. Having something to celebrate, a break from what life has become, is good for morale, especially for a 16 year-old who has been alone for a month.

     Now that she has crossed the line, she could theoretically re-cross any time to make her way to the next milestone: Cape Horn. But December is the beginning of the hurricane season in the South Pacific, and the trade winds there blow from the southeast. That means she'll keep heading east until she's past the danger area -- traditionally the longitude of the Marquesas -- then turn south once she can lay a better angle to the wind.

     But there's a wild card in the mix: this year's developing El Niño. El Niño's warmer waters move the jet stream all over the world and change Pacific currents, resulting in the tops being blown off more Atlantic hurricanes, but a harder-hit Pacific. In those years, the cyclone-prone area expands sometimes as far east as the Marquesas.

     December is still weeks away, though. Today, we'll toast the shellback with warm chocolate.

     As the Aussies say, "Good on yer, Jesse. Well done!"