Crossing the equator

14 July 1787

Crossing the equator, which marked the change from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere, was celebrated at sea by ‘crossing the line’ ceremonies. This initiation rite required sailors who had never crossed the line to appear before ‘King Neptune’ and undergo physical tests to prove they could endure the hardships of life at sea.

While Surgeon General John White records that the seamen on board Charlotte didn’t show an ‘inclination … to observe the ceremony usually practised’ when crossing the equator, David Collins, who travelled on HMS Sirius, wrote:

Such persons as had never before crossed the Line were compelled to undergo the ridiculous ceremonies which those who were privileged were allowed to perform on them …

The voyage