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Navy Vet Describes Line-Crossing Ceremony That Looks Like Torture in Vintage Photos: It Was Fun at the Time

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A U.S. Navy spokesperson tells PEOPLE marking a ship’s passage across the equator has been a tradition for centuries. But the ceremonies are now optional — and no longer look like this

There's a long-standing tradition among sailors on U.S. Navy ships when they cross the equator: Those onboard who've already experienced the passage, called shellbacks, perform an elaborate initiation of those who hadn't — the pollywogs.

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