Subase Pearl Harbor Det 716 

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The Order of the Bluenose 
From the New York Times Bestseller Cold Choices ©
Written by Larry Bond & Chris Carlson
Article published with full permission of the authors of Cold Choices.

Jerry toured his spaces quickly, finding everything in order.  The ITs were dealing with a bad dealing with a bad display in the radio room, but they expected to have it up in an hour, “no prob.”  Chandler was in radio as well, working with Chief Morrison on the rate training schedule for the next advancement exam.  Jerry headed back to officers’ country, pleased to find the passageway empty.

     Shimko answered Jerry’s soft knock, and urged him inside.  “Shut the door.”  Jerry eased the door closed, and held the knob so it wouldn’t make a noise.

     “Sir, I recommend a small speed change when we change course tomorrow so that we’ll cross the Arctic Circle at 1400 hours tomorrow afternoon,” Jerry reported.

     “Do it. Then it’s still tomorrow after lunch, eh?  Excellent.  You’ll be secretary.” Shimko informed Jerry.

     “Aye, sir.  Who’s going to be Boreas?”

     Shimko grinned broadly.

     “Uh, XO, weren’t you Boreas last year?”  Jerry’s tone was mildly accusatory. 

     “Yeah,” replied Shimko defensively.  “Do you have a problem with that, Mr. Mitchell?”

     “No sir!  Absolutely not!”  Jerry exclaimed, wisely recognizing the right answer when told.  “But from the rumors I heard, you had way too much fun last time.”

     “And that’s why I want to do it again.  XO’s prerogative.”  Shimko was still smiling.  “COB still has the props from last time.”

     “Aye, aye, sir.  I mean, Your Majesty.  I’ll need the list of candidates.”

     Shimko handed him a single sheet with a list of names.  “There are thirty-seven unrepentant warm bodies for you to keep track of.”

     Jerry took the paper, read it, and whistled.  “This is over a quarter of the crew.”

     “It’ll take a while,” Shimko agreed.  “But it will be fun.  That I promise.”

     Jerry winced, remembering his own trials and tribulations during the initiation into the Royal Order of the Bluenose.  He was grateful he wouldn’t have to do that again. 

Over that day and the next, Jerry watched the plot as Seawolf drove steadily north beneath dark grave waves.  The seawater turned colder, there were few surface contacts, and the sound of clinking ice floes appeared on the sonar displays.  Seawolf was crossing into the Marginal Ice Zone, an area where sea ice covered the ocean’s surface.  This was to be their cover for the rest of the approach north.  Jerry could visualize the northern wilderness in front of them, civilization and all it offered falling away behind.

     Electrician’s Mate Master Chief Hess was chief of the boat, the senior enlisted man on board.  He was also one of the key conspirators, having crossed the Arctic Circle so often he’d worn a bare spot on the chart.  Immediately after lunch, he and Jerry met by one of the auxiliary machinery spaces, midships fourth deck.

     The storage room’s door was locked, but the master chief had a key.  No one saw the COB and Jerry quickly slip inside.  The space held racks of spare electronic equipment and other supplies.  It also contained the ship’s small stock of holiday decorations.  A narrow strip of linoleum-covered deck provided the only room to pull out the well-organized boxes.  Hess, taller than Jerry, hunched over, since the overhead was not only low, but covered with brackets and cables.

     A gray-painted metal box, labeled “D. Jones,” sat at one end of the space.  The master chief unlocked it and began passing bizarre items back to Jerry: a quill pen, a green eyeshade, a leather-bound book, and a silver cloak covered with gold-colored paper letters.

     Jerry couldn’t help grinning.  This was only his second Bluenose ceremony, and his first as a member of the Royal Court.  His first had been aboard Memphis.  When she had crossed the Arctic Circle, the vessel had been visited by King Boreas, Lord of the Northern Waters, and his Royal realm, and demanded they be transformed into proper Bluenoses.

     The navy took this seriously.  At the end of a Bluenose ceremony, each initiate received a Bluenose certificate, and an entry was made in his service record so that on future voyages, he could prove to future King Boreases that he was cold-blooded enough to safely enter his realm. 

Besides his own regalia as Royal Secretary, Jerry collected a garish crown dotted with snowflakes, a barber pole-striped scepter, and a rather nice fur-trimmed purple cloak.  This was the XO’s costume as Boreas.  The COB also dug out a sheaf of blank certificates.  Part of Jerry’s job as Royal Secretary was to fill them out.  More paperwork. 

At 1345 on Sunday afternoon, as soon as lunch had been cleared away, the 1MC came to life.  It was not routinely used under way, and the sound boomed down the narrow passageways.  “NOW HEAR THIS.  ALL WARM BODIES AND ALL THOSE SEEKING AUDIENCE BEFORE KING BOREAS, LORD OF THE NORTHERN REALM, AND MUSTER IN THE CREW’S MESS.  HONOR GUARD, MUSTER BY THE FORWARD ESCAPE TRUNK.”Bluenose_coin.jpg

     While the initiates, forewarned and dressed in swim trunks, gathered in the mess, Boreas and his Royal Court assembled in the forward passageway.  There was a strict order for the procession.

     Davy Jones was played by MM1 Bryan.  He carried an oversized scroll that had been colorfully lettered with magic Marker.  A costume made of fake seaweed and plastic fish covered him from head to toe.  Davy was the herald, preceding and announcing he king’s arrival.

     Shimko came next as King Boreas.  In addition to his crown, cape, and battery-powered scepter, the XO had fashioned a beard from string, or possibly a mop.  Jerry couldn’t decide.

     His consort, Aurora, Queen of the Snows, looked extremely uncomfortable, since the one dress in the costume locker was a little tight for Petty Officer Hoague.  He was the right height, at least, but didn’t dare bend over.  A blond wig and makeup that looked more like war paint completed his ensemble.

     Behind “her” came the Royal Baby.  The bulk of chief McCord’s attire consisted of an extremely large, baggy diaper.  He had been allowed to keep his socks on, but the oversized bonnet and bib weren’t keeping him warm.  He shivered, not for the first time.

     As Royal Secretary, Jerry was next.  He was loaded with paper, some of it props, most of it not.  Chandler was the Master-at-Arms and brought up the rear.

     A line of chief petty officers in their dress blues filled up the ladder from the chief’s quarters.  They took position behind Davy Jones as the King’s honor guard.  Master Chief Hess, at the head of the line and looking back at the XO, asked, “Are we ready, sir?”

     Captain Rudel had already gone up to the mess decks.  He would welcome the Royal Court to Seawolf, and it was not a good thing to make the captain wait.  Shimko paused and looked back down the crowded corridor, counting noses.  All the players were present and patiently waiting to make their grand entrance.  “We’re good to go, COB.  Royal Court, forward march.”

     Proceeding at a stately pace, the procession threaded its way aft and up to the crew’s mess on the second deck.  Davy Jones ran ahead to fulfill his heraldic duties, and as the Royal Court reached the galley passageway, the 1MC boomed again.  First came eight bells, which signaled the arrival of a person of high rank, then, “ALL HAIL HIS MAJESTY KING BOREAS, LORD OF THE NORTHERN REALMS, AND HIS ROYAL COURT!”

Order_of_the_Bluenose.jpg     The XO timed it perfectly, arriving at the door to the mess as the announcement ended.  Davy Jones called “Attention on deck!”  and thirty-seven members of the crew snapped straight and tall.  They were formed in ranks, but their military bearing was adversely affected by the swimsuits.  Others of the crew, already having “experienced” the ritual, crowded into the rear of the mess to watch.

     Shimko laid it on with a trowel.  “Captain Rudel, I am delighted to have such an excellent sub as Seawolf enter my realm.  Surely it is a smart and well-found vessel.  But Captain, I am disappointed.  Did you think you could sneak these unworthy warm-blooded wretches across my border without notice?”

     Rudel played his part as well, placating the august monarch.  “Of course not, Your Highness.  These supplicants for admission are assembled here to plead their case.  They are ready for your examination.”

     Boreas appeared to be mollified.  “In truth, Captain, we had observed your coming for some time, and noted these hot-blooded sailors.  They have much to answer for before they can be admitted to my kingdom.  Royal Secretary!”

     That was Jerry’s cue.  He stepped forward and opened up his ornate ledger book.  He made a production of going through the book, as if sorting through a great number of documents, then handed Boreas a large sheet of parchment.  “Here it is, Your Majesty, the list of charges.”  Jerry made the last three words sound ominous.

     Boreas made a great affair of studying the document, saying “Tsk, tsk,” and “I can’t believe it!” as he examined the charges.  Finally he handed the list back to Jerry.  “Seaman John Inglis, front and center!”

     Inglis was one of those pale-skinned, freckle-ladened redheads, with hair that almost glowed in the dark.  He nervously approached the king, with a little assist from the Master-at-Arms.

     “Seaman Inglis, you are accused of having red hair.  Is this true?”

     Inglis was but the first victim.  Each penitent that was called before Boreas faced similarly absurd charges, such as “having overly large feet,” or “having too pretty a girlfriend.”  Boreas then meted out punishment, with the assistance of the court.  It could be ridiculous, humiliating, and possibly uncomfortable.  Sometimes it was all three.

     Jerry had drawn up the list of charges the day before, with some assistance from others in the wardroom and the chief’s mess.  Shimko and the COB had devised most of the punishment themselves.

     Living and working in such close quarters, the crew knew each other well.  Jerry had easily figured out most of the “charges.”  In fact, the only difficult candidate was one of Jerry’s own men—Rountree, who’d reported to the sub just days before sailing.  They’d learned a great deal about him, but not the kind of quirks one could poke fun at.  Jerry had puzzled for some time before finding an appropriate offense.

     Rountree was the last one called, and allowed himself to be marched by the Master-at-Arms to face the King.  Even after watching the fates of the others, there was a hint of a smile on his face.  Boreas laid into the young sailor.  “Petty Officer Rountree, your constant complaints and grumbling have echoed through the ocean, sinking icebergs, corroding ship’s hulls, and driving an entire school of tuna to seek an early death.”

     Since Rountree was eternally, unperturbedly cheerful, this brought laughter from everyone, including the victim.

     Boreas ignored Rountree’s laughter.  “For the crime of extreme glumness, you are hereby condemned to wear this sign.”  Jerry pulled a piece of card stock out of his ledger book with a cord attached.  Decorated with multicolored happy faces, it read, “Please cheer me up.”

     Then the Baby stepped forward with paint and a brush.  “And since you refuse to smile,” Boreas continued, “for your shipmates’ sake we will give you one to wear.”  Gurgling happily, the Baby painted a clown smile and rosy cheeks on Rountree, even angling the eyebrows to improve his expression.  As Jerry expected, the sailor took his ridiculous accusation and punishment with the same good humor he took everything else.

     Following their individual punishments, the inductees had to undergo several “tests.”  The first involved running from the galley to the bow and back with an ice cube in each armpit.  Next came bobbing for icebergs, a fish-identification drill, and as a final ordeal, each initiate had to crawl the length of the torpedo tube and touch his nose to the outer door.  Since the metal of the tube, and door, and indeed the sub’s hull were in direct contact with the arctic water, it was just barely above freezing.  After emerging into the relative warmth of the torpedo room, each shivering sailor was baptized with ice-cold seawater and his nose was painted a dark Prussian blue.

     When the last warm body had been appropriately blessed, they all enjoyed a “celebratory feast” of cold mashed potatoes shaped into “snowballs,” mashed sardines, and “seaweed salad” made of cold boiled spinach and asparagus.

     After the proceedings, Jerry retreated to his stateroom and quickly climbed into his coveralls.  As he put his props away, he thought about how childish such a ceremony would seem to an outsider.  And truth be told, it was pretty childish.  But it helped to build camaraderie among the crew, solidified them as a team.  Now the new initiates would proudly display their deep-blue noses, fully vested members of a select club.  No Ivy League leadership or management course would do as much.

About the Authors Larry Bond and Chris Carlson

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