Cross the Suez, join the club
ABOARD THE USS BATAAN — Those who travel through the Suez Canal can leave with more than memories.
Ships offer sailors and Marines certificates to prove that they went through the historic seaway. The Morale, Welfare and Recreation department sells them for between $2 and $3 each.
“It’s kind of unusual to go through the Suez,” said Lt Cmdr. Randy Dossey, the Bataan’s MWR officer, also known as the ship’s “Fun Boss.”
“We try and make it a memorable occasion for them,” he said.
The Navy has a club or certificate for just about every important mile marker on the globe, according to the Naval Historical Center in Washington, D.C. The center offers a list of unofficial U.S. Navy certificates on its Web site, www.history.navy.mil.
If you cross the Arctic Circle, you are known as a “Blue Nose.” It is also known as the “Northern Domain of the Polar Bear.”
Members are officially “Frozen Stiff,” and are “entitled to all privileges of this frozen realm of blizzards.”
Those who go through the Suez receive a “Safari to Suez” certificate. Transiting through the Panama Canal, however, offers the “Order of the Ditch.”
There are several nicknames and clubs for those who cross the equator.
Someone who has not “crossed the line” is a “pollywog.” Someone who has crossed the equator is forever known as “shellback.” Cross the equator at the Greenwich meridian and you’re an “emerald shellback.” Intersect at the 180th meridian and you’re a “golden shellback.”
Traversing around Cape Horn will make you a “mossback.”
To be a part of the Royal Domain of the Emperor Penguin, a sailor must cross the Antarctic Circle.
There are some exclusive clubs sailors would rather not join.
It might be embarrassing to be a part of the Royal Order of Whale Bangers. A crewmember has to accidentally fire at a whale mistaking it for a submarine to do that.
The Caterpillar Club includes those who have made an unscheduled parachute jump from a plane. Members wear a gold caterpillar on the civilian clothes. If the jeweled eyes of the caterpillar are ruby, the wearer survived a midair collision, according to the historical center.
A “sea squatter” has spent more than 24 hours on a life raft.
While some of the clubs do not offer certificates, some members carry business cards showing they belong to the special society.
Petty Officer Ezra Moore, who recently went through the Suez with the Bataan, carries his “shellback” card in his wallet.
“I pull [the card] out if I have to prove it,” Moore said.
He won’t need it on this ship’s deployment to the Persian Gulf. But once you’re a shellback, nobody wants to be mistaken for a pollywog.