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When Crossing the Equator Used to Be a Big Frickin' Deal

October 9, 2012 at 1:24 PM | by | Comments (0)

When was the last time you flew over the Equator and, at the exact moment, toasted the occasion? Probably never, right? That's because it's not that big a deal anymore and airplane pilots have stopped announcing it. But trust that there was a time when heading over the equator was a very big frickin' deal and flight crew not only noted it, but celebrated it by passing out official certificates of equatorial passage to passengers.

This was a time before seatback TVs and the moving map channel, of course. In fact, the ritual of "Crossing the Line" goes back to the days of exploration by tall ship, a fact that wasn't lost on Pan Am when they borrowed the practice to break up the monotony that set in on those long Clipper (also a maritime term) flights, from the 1930s through the early 1960s.

This certificate hails from 1950, when a certain Ms. Lindquist flew from Buenos Aires to Miami. Other Pan Am routes for which we've seen certificates include Nadi - Honolulu and Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) - Accra. We're not sure when the practice officially came to an end, but occasionally cruise ships will hold Crossing the Line ceremonies on deck, as will military ships, to induct fresh-faced sailors into the Order of Neptune.

Just recently we stumbled across a related certificate, one that took the idea to a new level for commemorating around-the-world travel. Onboard the USS Intrepid, the aircraft carrier/museum now permanently docked on Manhattan's west side, we spotted this Order of Magellan for visiting the seven seas (below). The ports are listed, as are the dates during which the voyage was completed (4 June 1968 - 8 February 1969).

All this has us thinking—if airlines still celebrated the Equator crossing today, where would we have gotten our certificate? The answer is slightly embarrassing, as we thought back and had a peek at Google Maps before realizing it was only earlier this year, on a LAN Airlines flight from New York-JFK to Santiago, Chile.

Do you remember your first crossing of the Equator?

[Photos: Jaunted]

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