Dorothy Stevenson in an equator-crossing ceremony
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In 1938 the Australian women's tennis team travelled by ship to Europe to compete, a journey which took six weeks.
At this time the only way to reach England from Australia was by ship. The players did take their first airplane flight during the tour, but only between London and Paris. In this image, team member Dorothy Stevenson is about to be ceremonially ‘baptised’ in the ship’s swimming pool. The ritual was commonly performed on passengers who are crossing the equator for the first time. It was part of a larger equator-crossing ceremony, featuring King Neptune who welcomes initiates into his ‘slimy world’. Such ceremonies were often performed for the amusement of passengers on commercial liners, a sanitised version of centuries-old traditions in which sailors were initiated when crossing for the first time, sometimes with extreme physical trials.