Story: The voyage out

A daughter of Neptune

A daughter of Neptune

When ships crossed the equator, special celebrations were devised for first-timers ‘crossing the line’. Pictured is Beryl Tuppen (left) dressed as one of Neptune’s daughters, onboard the steamship Captain Cook in 1952. Other passengers dressed up in a variety of characters – Captain Cook, Carmen Miranda and Mae West among others. King Neptune can be also seen in the background directing the proceedings.

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Contributed by Beryl Tuppen of Auckland

The day before sailing, getting notification of a delay due to the New Zealand waterfront strike and waiting a year before we left the UK.

The excitement of it all, together with the sadness of knowing we would never see relatives or our homeland ever again.

The packed decks as everyone sat about in the cold sunshine on canvas deckchairs. There was never a spare seat for a gangly youngster. I prowled, while they read, knitted, sewed or chatted.

Plates and bowls sliding up and down the meal tables in the Bay of Biscay, while most passengers took to their bunks. The stuffy cabin. The nauseating smell and the porthole shut to keep the waves out.

Wearing my first pair of longs, blue wool flares, and proudly standing at the prow imagining I was on a pirate ship.

Learning from the sailors how to whistle.

The awnings going up and the kiddies’ paddling pool (a canvas sheet) being filled when we got into the tropics.

The gunfire at Curacao, and because of local fighting having to rush back and stay on board in stifling heat till the next day. The huge branch of bananas the men carried back on a pole.

A certain overpowering smell of crude oil and baking coffee beans.

The electric mules pulling our ship through the locks at the Panama Canal and my father steadfastly recording it on film.

Being a mermaid, daughter of King Neptune, and the fun of crossing the meridian line, Captain Cook, Mae West, Carmen Miranda and all.

Coming second in a children’s fancy dress, dressed as ‘navigation’.

Bartering with boat-loads from Pitcairn Island.

Coming into the Wellington Heads in a vicious southerly swell. Anchoring in the harbour overnight, then the magic of the brightly coloured houses perched on the hills on a sparkling sunny winter’s morning.

Not getting our clothes and household goods for months due to the strike.

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How to cite this page:

John Wilson, 'The voyage out - Personal accounts: 1900–1959', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 14 April 2024)

Story by John Wilson, published 8 Feb 2005