Top of the World

All sailors who cross the Arctic Circle become members of "The Order of the Bluenose" (a/k/a "Order of the Top of the World" or "Order of the Polar Bear") and are entitled to receive a certificate something like this:

This certificate was awarded by MSTS (Military Sea Transportation Service), the Navy's own steamship company, to those venturing above 66ยช 33' North, the Arctic Circle.

Another Arctic Circle cruise certificate, supposedly awarded aboard a fictional submarine.

Norway's Hurtigruten ships make daily six day voyages north from Bergen to Kirkenes carrying passengers, mail and freight., regularly crossing the Arctic Circle. A crewmember portraying King Neptune supervises a crossing ceremony where passengers are doused with ice water. Those present are awarded a colorful souvenir certificate like the one pictured above.

There are several more of these unofficial nautical recognitions. known as cruise certificates, that can be awarded to sailors at memorable milestones during their wide ranging travels. I had never heard of most of these small titles and orders but, looking back, find that I would have qualified for five of them had they been awarded aboard Michelson.

The Order of the Shellback (or the Order of Neptune) for sailors who have crossed the equator, is the best known. This may involve a period of hazing followed by an initiation (!) aboard real navy ships. This is known as the line crossing ceremony, in which the pollywogs (initiates) must perform some amusing but harmless tasks to show their worthiness to become shellbacks, veterans of the line crossing. Certificates with whimsical images of sea creatures, real and imaginary, are awarded to the new shellbacks in the name of Neptuni Regis

A WWII vintage Shellback certificate, suitable for framing, commemorates crossing the equator.

Other unofficial navy titles and orders include: 
  • Order of the Ditch, also known as the Panama Canal Transit Certificate, for sailors who have passed through the Panama Canal.
  • Order of the Rock, also called the Strait of Gibraltar Transit Certificate, for sailors who have passed through the Strait of Gibraltar.
  • Royal Domain of the Emperor Penguin, also called the Order of the Red Nose for sailors who have crossed the Antarctic Circle (66° 33? S).
  • Safari to Suez for sailors who have transited the Suez Canal.
  • Order of the Golden Dragon for sailors who have crossed the International Date Line, the 180th meridian.
  • Golden Shellback for sailors who have crossed the point where the Equator crosses the International Date Line.
  • Emerald Shellback or Royal Diamond Shellback for sailors who cross at 0 degrees off the coast of West Africa (where the Equator crosses the Prime Meridian).
  • Realm of the Czars for sailors who crossed into the Black Sea.
  • Order of Magellan for sailors who circumnavigated the earth.
  • Order of the Lakes for sailors who have sailed on all five Great Lakes.
  • Rounding Cape Horn award, sometimes called a Mossback Certificate.
  • Persian Excursion certificates commemorate service aboard ship in the Persian Gulf.
  • Spanish Main Certificate commemorates cruising the Caribbean Sea.
  • Plank Owner for members of a ship's original (commissioning) crew.
  • Sea Squatters, awarded to those who have spent 24 hours or more on a life raft. 

The Golden Dragon certificate, for those crossing the international date line.

The Order of the Ditch, awarded to those transiting the Panama Canal.

The Order of the Rock, issued to those who have passed the Rock of Gibraltar.

A Round the World certificate (a/a/a) Order of Magellan, for those who have circumnavigated te earth.

For those who have sailed fbetween the Med and the Red Sea, the Safari to Suez certificate.

Knights of The Emperor Penguin have crossed the Antarctic Circle.

It appears that the elusive, perhaps fictional, sailor W. T. Hatch has been to the Persian Gulf.

Plank Owners are crew members of a newly commissioned ship.