Blue Nose of the Realm



~~~

We, Marines, recently celebrated our 246th birthday. To all my fellow Marines I say, Semper Fidelis. To anyone who does or has ever worn a uniform, I say thank you for your service. To those warriors we have lost, I say thank you for your sacrifice. And this reminder got me thinking about all the proud traditions associated with naval service. When you have been around as long as the Navy and Marine Corps, tradition is a big deal. These can be as obvious as the Army-Navy football game or as subtle as the precedence of forces in a parade. From manning the rails when arriving or leaving port to the New Year’s Day Deck Log (wherein the Officer of the Deck or OOD records the first entry of the year in creative prose). But some are much less formal and little known by those unsalted by the sea. I, for brevity, will share but one.

In May of 1984, aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, I crossed north of the Artic Circle. Being my first time, I was bestowed the honor of earning the title “Blue Nose” under hallowed naval tradition. A proud badge of honor that immediately conveyed the uniqueness and vastness of your travels to any other sailor. It came complete with a beautiful certificate bearing witness and testament to all that I had earned the title and privileges thereof. Signed by the Commanding Officer, no less. I had heard whispers in the ranks about the possibility that our course may make this venture across an imaginary line somewhere and was duly excited at what I saw as another feather in my cap. Of course, an honor like this is not given, it is earned. And there were trials ahead to prove ourselves worthy.

What ensued is the adult form of hazing. Old crusty sailors would weave tales of what tests lie ahead for the greenhorns and let them matriculate and brew through the ranks, growing under their own power. Even though I knew the Navy could not throw anything at me like the Marine Corps had, I secretly worried about what lie ahead. On that fateful day, the captain announced our crossing of the Artic Circle with what can only be described as a bit of glee in his voice. Not a tone I had ever heard around him in all our time together. He instructed all those not yet Blue Noses to muster at the Electrical Shack 103 on the main deck. I joined a long line of sailors and a few Marines. There in the passageway, we were immediately assaulted by many of the already Blue Nose officers of both services. Screaming and acting crazy, they instructed us to strip down to nothing but our underwear. We placed our clothes into a trash bag and were lined up facing the hatch.

One by one, at about 30 second intervals, they would open the hatch and send another brave soul outside onto the flight deck where it was below freezing with a good 15 knot breeze in the air. This got your attention quick. Outside, there were crew men who instructed you that you had to crawl across the deck to all five “stations” and pass the test to proceed. Once you have completed all the tasks, you will be granted your proud title. Now, keeping in mind the non-skid surface of a flight deck on bare knees, I crawled my way to the first. Here I was tasked to rise and sing the Navy Hymn. Of course, once I identified myself as a Marine, it was changed to the Marine Corps hymn. I would like to think I did a beautiful rendition considering the circumstances. The next, you were made to eat raw squid. The next, a tried-and-true boatswain would show how to tie one of the hundreds of knots they know. Even the simple ones get hard when you are shaking from the cold and your hands won’t listen to your head. I think the next was being quizzed about the ship’s history, I am not clear on that. But the last one, I remember too well. It was called “Kissing the Buddha Belly” and was meant to bring luck to our voyage. It was the fattest Petty Officer they could find, stripped to the waist and sitting in a chair, with his belly covered in lard. Within his sizeable and hairy belly button lie a maraschino cherry. All one had to do is eat the cherry. Once in proximity, Buddha (which is what I called him for the rest of our voyage) would grab your head and smear your face all over his distended girth with, dare I say it, a belly laugh. Then you crawled your way back to the hatch, having well earned this sacred and coveted title.

As silly as this sounds, it was wildly hilarious, not at all harmful physically (although my psyche may have been scarred), and certainly built a huge amount of esprit de corps among the crew. I am now, sincerely proud to be an official “Blue Nose of the Realm” and to this day still have the certificate bearing witness to the same. And this is but one of the unauthorized but long held traditions of naval service. I am also a “Tried and Trusted, Salt Encrusted, Golden Shellback”, but I will leave that for you to Google in your free time.

~~~



Comments
14 Responses to “Blue Nose of the Realm”
  1. Definitely one of the things that I loved about the service is the traditions and the ceremonies. This one was new to me, being one that never ventured that far up north, but I thought it would be an interesting trial and I would imagine that a shot…or two…of brandy would be absolutely necessary after the “hazing” was done. And you are right, all those things…crazy as they may seem…that they do to you in the military has a purpose and a reason, nothing is done haphazard. Great post for a Saturday morning Brad! And Semper Fi (In the CG it is Semper Paratus)

    • Brad Osborne says:

      Thank you, Francisco! All the traditions in all the services have a purpose. And we continue them to honor those who have gone before. I am sure you have a few great stories of your own. And for my readers who made not be fluent in Latin, “Semper Paratus” mean “Always Ready” and is a well-earned motto for our Coast Guard brethren.

  2. That’s in interesting story I’ve never heard from you before! I’m not surprised you completed the tasks, as failure has never been an option for you. Are there service men/women who fail the tasks? I imagine no one gives up, but it may be deemed necessary to stop someone if they have not completed a task in a longer-than-necessary amount of time. I can’t begin to imagine what it might be like on a ship with the others when you’ve failed that kind of test! Anyhow, again, no surprise to me that you area a “Blue Nose of the Realm.” Thank you, always, for your service! Love you dearly!

    • Brad Osborne says:

      Nobody ever “fails” the trials. They expect you to keep trying until they tired laughing at you and send you onto the next station. But in the end, everyone gets their title and certificate. Love you back, sis!

  3. beth says:

    amazing and thank you and all who served, for your service! glad you survived and can laugh about it now )

  4. Jim Borden says:

    I love reading about traditions like this. As you point out, seems like a great way to reduce some stress and build camaraderie.

    I’m just curious – were all the new members of the Blue Nose club guys?

    thanks for sharing something so personal – great post!

    • Brad Osborne says:

      Back then, it was all men as women serving aboard combat vessels was not a thing yet. Thankfully, that has changed and women can be found aboard any Navy vessel filling any role. And, yes, they go through the same ritual at the same time now. Thanks for the question and the support, Jim!

  5. petespringerauthor says:

    I don’t envy the guy who was recognized for his Buddha Belly.

  6. kristianw84 says:

    I really enjoyed this story. You have such fascinating stories!!

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