Pacific Ocean (Part Two)
-9th day at sea-
The initiation started at 8 A.M. this morning & we crossed the equator at 11 A.M. while it was in full swing. I could easily write 4 or 5 pages on the ceremonies today but as this letter will be too fat as it is, I’ll skip the gory details & just tell you that they gave us h---! One thing they did do is subject us to the hungry shears of the Royale Barber. As a result we all look like sorry sad sacks – I have a patch on the top of my dome 4 inches square that has been clipped right down to the bare. Four or five of the boys were laid up in sick bay as a result of the initiation – so you see they didn’t exactly play with us. However I guess it was worth it because I’m now an honorable Shellback & will be on the “giving” end of it the next time I cross the famous line. Almost every one on board was a polywog so the initiation took all day. I was thru at 10 A.M. & had a good time watching the others. It certainly was a kick to see all those sorry haircuts at dinner this evening.
-10th day at sea-
Had the morning watch today from 7 A.M. ‘till noon. We Gunnery Officers take turns on the watch up on the flying bridge (which is the highest deck on the ship). We are on duty up there along with a Navy Officer to keep a constant vigil for subs, ships, & aircraft. The naval officers are very friendly & we have a lot of interesting conversations with them during the watches. Am learning a lot about the Navy & about navigation from them. Yesterday & today the sea has been kicking up quite a fuss. Now & then the waves have even been breaking over the main deck covering us all with salt spray. Still I don’t feel a bit whoozy so I guess I’ve really got my sea-legs now. The Pacific is very beautiful down here – a dark blue & very clear water. We see flying fish every day now & every so often a school of porpoise. Took part in a little gambling tonight for the first time on the trip – played Black Jack – won 4 bucks.
-11th day at sea-
Did an astonishing thing this morning. After giving one of the gun crews a little work out I walked back aft to the ship’s P.X. & fountain & bought my first soda. I was quite impressed with myself sitting there on deck eating a Black Cow right in the middle of the blue Pacific a thousand miles from nowhere! The ship makes its own “ice cream” & carries a good supply of syrups. It surely hit the right spot! Dinner today consisted of shrimp salad & chocolate cake for desert. The shrimps are fresh & carried frozen – very tasty. This afternoon we had a big bingo game for all officers. I won once so came out about $2.50 to the good. My finances are really improving – have spent a total of 15¢ since I came aboard. (Black Cow). Was on watch from 5 ‘till 8 this evening. It was a beautiful sunset at 6:30 – when the stars came out my Navy friend on watch with me pointed out the Southern Cross. None of the northern constellations are visible from this part of the globe. The big & little dippers are way down below the northern horizon. It was interesting to watch them navigate tonight. They came up just after sunset with their sextons & take measurements of the distance of certain stars from the horizon. By this method they are able to get a fixed location of the ship down to a few yards. I consider that plenty accurate! Guess I’ll now read an hour or so & then hit the bunk.
-12th day at sea-
Forgot to tell you that three of the boys & myself practiced singing church hymns yesterday. We worked up two numbers to sing for the church services today. Church was held at 10 bells on the starboard promenade deck. Flags were hung all along the railings making a very colorful & cozy church. Our two special renditions (if you could call them that) went off pretty well considering our amateur standings. We were accompanied by a guitar, a saxophone, & a clarinet. Biggest trouble we had was trying to keep our feet under us cuz the ship was really pitching. After noon we (those that were interested) took a French lesson. The ship has a portable phonograph & several records which teach the French pronunciations & definitions. Where we are bound for – they tell as we’ll have a lot of French people to deal with & it will be to our advantage to know a few phrases of their language. Sat listened to some dance music from San Francisco tonight & then read some before bed.
-13th day at sea-
I finally ran out of “readin’ stuff” today so I went browsing in the ships library. There I found a book by Winston Churchill – The Crossing, written back in 1903. Always have wanted to read one of his books so here’s my chance. It’s a novel about the pioneer days of young America. For dinner today we had “poke” chops & mashed potatoes – peaches for desert. Slept most of the afternoon away because I’m on watch at midnight tonight & must get my 8 hours somehow. We had an inspection of quarters this morning so we all spent some time housecleaning. Had a big dish of ice cream for supper. Just now got back from a harmony session with the boys up on the promenade deck – it’s a regular nightly occurance now. Wish Loper was here – we miss him cuz he’s our lead man.
-14th day at sea-
Came off watch at 4 o’clock & slept ‘till 7 A.M. when I got up & consumed my regular breakfast of eggs “over easy” & toast. Spent the morning (of all things) memorizing some scraps of poetry & Lincolns Gettysburg Address. Cold ham & potatoe salad for dinner plus beans – apple pie for desert. Right after chow my roommate & I toted our rifles back aft to the stern of the ship (that’s the rear – for the benefit for all you pollywogs back there). There we proceeded to get some good target practice by dropping tin cans over the side of the boat & taking pot shots at them as they bobbed along in our foamy wake. Came close lots of times but I doubt if we hit any of em.
Candy is pretty much of a rarity aboard ship so today we were quite happily surprised to be able to purchase 4 bars apiece from the ship’s store. One of the Naval officers & I disposed of two of them when we stood our watches tonight from 8 P.M. ‘till midnight. We had quite a fog tonight – the night air was very damp & chilly. There was no moon which made the night pitch dark – I felt quite safe from any underwater menace cuz we’d be plenty hard to see in that mucky fog. It’s late now & I’m plenty leg weary after a 4 hour stand.
-15th day at sea-
Expect to be at our destination in two more days – good thing, I guess, cuz this thing is beginning to take on the appearances of a book. Had French toast this morning, for a change instead of the ol’ stand by eggs. I read Churchill’s book most of the morning – it’s very interesting & I’m quite surprised to find he’s such an excellent novelist. Gave the gun crews a little practice this afternoon. Also layed out on the top (hurricane) deck & took some sun. I’ve just about lost all that good tan I acquired while at Pittsburg. Gave my carbine another going over today to be sure it’s in good working order after being exposed to all this damp salt air. Also did a little washing so I’ll have some clean clothes to put on when we debark. Was on watch tonight from 5 to 8 P.M. The waves certainly were sparking tonight. Can’t remember if I’ve already explained that phenomena or not but anyhow this is how it was explained to me. The salt water is made up of millions of minute animals that have a certain phosphorescent quality in them. Whenever they’re stirred up or interfered with, they each light up in anger or chagrine or something, & as a result the whole wave is a glowing mass. After my watch I came down & read Churchill ‘till my lids started to droop. Have completely broken myself of that habit of falling asleep in chairs & leaving the lights burning. Now when I get tired I hit the bunk.
-16th day at sea-
This morning we were given an instruction sheet on how to debark tomorrow so evidently the day is just about here at long last. I certainly am impressed with the width of this great blue Pacific. To think that we’ve been pushing along day & night without stop for 16 days & have seen nothing but the endless sea. One day this week an island was sighted from the bridge but I didn’t happen to be up topside then so I didn’t get to see it. You know the circle of vision at sea increases with heights, so consequently the horizon from the top of the bridge is about 8 miles farther than from the main deck. That’s the reason for a crows nest – an observer there can see about 4 miles further than one on the bridge.
Before I forget it I’ll tell you now that it would be best if we correspond by V-mail from now on. They say it’s much faster even than air mail. Better for those that handle the mail too I guess.
We were just told today that this noon would be our last chance to get our letters in the ship’s mail so I’ve decided to wind up this miniature “Gone With The Wind” so that it will be sure to get with the first mail back to the States.
When I land & get situated I’ll write again telling you of the events of the next few days. Looks like I’ll be busy packing from now on anyway & won’t have much time to write.
With that I lay down my well-worn pen. So long.
All my love,