To The Ends Of The Earth & Crossing The EquatorSunday, October 29, 2006
I am a sucker for seafaring yarns and I have read all of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels twice plus Golden Ocean and The Unknown Shore. I have read several Nelson biographies and Frederick Marryat's Mr. Midshipman Easy. I was hooked as a teenager when my mother lent me Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies in 1957. After that I found and read all of the series by C.S. Forrester.
So when I "discovered" William Golding's sea trilogy To the Ends of the Earth a couple of years ago I bought it but somehow I postponed reading it. This thick book includes Rites of Passage, Close Quarters and Fire Down Below. Then I read the preview to last Sunday's British TV production version of To the Ends of the Earth on PBS. It features a great cast but Rosemary and I were mesmerized by Jarred Harris's performance as Captain Anderson. Harris is the son of Richard Harris. In last week's first episode remarkable things happen belowships during the hazing of a parson during the crossing of the equator. The production is quite faithful to the book (I am now ready for the second installment tonight) but the crossing of the equator is but a vague diversion in the novel. Seeing the terrible hazing of the parson I remembered that I, too, suffered, but a much reduced version that included Prussian Blue oil paint, adhesive tape on my legs and being sprayed with a sea hose while chained to a boom. It happened on board the Empresa Lineas Maritimas Argentinas (ELMA) Victory ship, Rio Aguapey, on December 11, 1966 off the coast of Brazil. Captain Guillermo Migliorini signed my certificate which made me a full fledged tiburón or shark.
Another incident in To the Ends of the Earth is crucial to the story. Our young hero, the upper class gentleman Edmund Talbot steps up to the quarterdeck and Captain Anderson is not able to vent his anger( the young man might have influencial patrons) at this break of naval tradition that only those who are invited can do so. When the hapless parson does so, since he is not a gentleman, Anderson boots him off the deck.
I remember on my second day on the Rio Aguapey (we shoved off from Buenos Aires on our way to the ports of Brazil, Puerto Rico, New Orleans, Houston and Veracruz) that since I was the only passenger on board I thought I would have special privileges. I went up to the bridge uninvited. I quickly found out that while the Argentine Merchant Marine ship, the Aguapey was not a British ship of the line, the same holy traditions prevailed. Captain Migliorini stared at me impassively while the second officer grabbed me and took me down quickly explaining my terrible faux pa.