Order of the Shellback. The best-known line-crossing ceremony is probably the ‘Order of the Shellback’ that commemorates a sailor's first crossing of the Equator. Originally, the tradition was created by seasoned sailors as a test of new shipmates to ensure they were capable of handling long, arduous times at sea. Sailors who have already crossed the equator are called (Trusty) Shellbacks, or Sons of Neptune, while those who have not crossed are called (Slimy) Pollywogs, or Wogs.
The ceremony is a ritual of reversal in which the older,experienced enlisted crew essentially takes over the ship from the officers. The controlled "chaos" of the ‘Pollywog Revolt’ takes control and then re-order is established in the initiation rites as Shellbacks convert the Wogs through physical tests. Similar to boot camps, the initiation coverts inexperienced Wogs into experienced Shellbacks. Minor physical assaults used to be the norm but have been prohibited in recent years.
Sometime. the eve of the equatorial crossing is called ‘Wog Day’ where Wogs are allowed to capture and interrogate Shellbacks, by tying them up, cracking eggs or pouring aftershave lotion on their heads, etc. The Wogs are aware that it will be much harder on them during the initiation if they do anything like this.
After the ship crosses the line, the 'Jolly Roger' flag is hoisted, and Pollywogs receive subpoenas to appear before the Royal family, which consists of King Neptune and his wife Highness Amphitrite, and the Royal Baby. Also in attendance are Davy Jones, the Royal Barber who uses a hand clipper to cut Wog hair, and other Shellbacks dressed as characters, such as pirates. There may be a beauty contest where each department of the ship is required to introduce one male contestant in swimsuit drag.
Various charges are levied against the Pollywogs. Some Wogs may be "interrogated" by King Neptune and his entourage who use "truth serum" (hot sauce and various other nasty but eatable things) to encourage telling the truth. During the ceremony, Wogs undergo a number of increasingly embarrassing ordeals for the entertainment of the Shellbacks, such as wearing clothing inside out and backwards, crawling on hands and knees on nonskid-coated decks, being swatted with a short length of wet fire hose called a ‘shalaylee’, being locked in stocks and pillories and pelted with mushy fruit, being locked in a water coffin of salt-water and bright green sea dye (fluorescent sodium salt), crawling through chutes “The Tube” or large tubs (The Royal Bath) of rotting garbage, and kissing the Royal Baby's (the fattest Shellback) belly that has been coated with mustard or other nasty stuff.