Once the ceremony is complete, Wogs are hosed down and each receives a certificate declaring his new status as a Shellback. This certificate is cherished as proof of initiation so it does not need to be endured again. Submariners often become "Top Secret Shellbacks" having crossed the equator at a classified degree of longitude.
In the 19th century and earlier, the line-crossing ceremony was quite a brutal event, often involving beating pollywogs with boards and wet ropes and sometimes throwing them over the side of the ship and dragging them in the surf from the stern. Sailors were reported to have been killed while participating in these old line-crossing ceremonies.
As late as World War II, the line-crossing ceremony was still rather rough and involved activities such as the "Devil's Tongue," which was an electrified piece of metal poked into the sides of those deemed pollywogs. Beatings were often still common, usually with sections of dry rather salt-hardened fire hoses or canvas tubes filled with wet rice. World War II Navy deck logs speak of sailors visiting sickbay after crossing the line.
Beginning in the 1980s, all forms of hazing began being strictly controlled. Today’s line-crossing ceremonies are relatively tame; rather than a dreaded rite of initiation, they have become a popular tradition. In the PBS documentary Carrier filmed in 2005 (Episode 7, "Rites of Passage"), a crossing-the-line ceremony on the USS Nimitz was extensively documented. The ceremony was carefully orchestrated by the ship's officers, with some enthusiastic sailors chafing at the degree to which harassment was disallowed.
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