One morning, we woke to the sound of "Bing Bong" and the voice of Pablo on the intercom excitedly reporting that we had officially crossed the Antarctic Circle at Latitude 66.5 degrees South. We were all invited to wake up, grab some breakfast and prepare for a celebration on deck hosted by the Expedition Crew and Captain to commemorate the success. Everyone on board rushed out to celebrate.
So what is the big deal about crossing the circle? Well for some, it simply means a longer itinerary that will afford more day cruising along the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. For those who have a nautical background or a love of polar exploratory history, crossing the circle can be a really big accomplishment. In the nautical world, crossing different latitude lines provide different benchmarks of achievement, and with those achievements come inductions into different nautical orders. In our case, the Hebridean Sky had just welcomed us into the Order of the Selkie.
The excitement in the air was palpable as we all gathered outside to see the captain announce this in person. Passengers were cheering and even the expedition team members were celebrating. Many of them had been on circle crossing voyages in the past, but apparently not many of them had actually made it across the circle successfully, so for a lot of the team this was their first time crossing as well! To celebrate the occasion, the captain welcomed "King Neptune" (our bird specialist dressed in sheets and seaweed) and his "Henchmen of the Deep" (the rest of our expedition team- also dressed in strange clothes) aboard to perform the ceremony to officially induct the ship into his order. Champagne was passed around to toast the occasion and King Neptune declared that all on board must "Kiss the Fish" to complete the induction. A fish was brought out and we all lined up accordingly. Yes, the fish was real and yes it was cold and slimy and smelly. Yes, I kissed it willingly, as did everyone else on board, giddy with the accomplishment of the trip.
Even if you do not hail from a nautical background, it is a pretty unique bragging right to say that you have crossed 66 degrees south and have joined the ranks of famous polar explorers before you, and that you kissed a fish while doing it.