If you’ve ever read the Master and Commander series or any books about the British Navy in the days of sail, you probably know that having animals onboard the ship was fairly common. Ships got underway with anything from dogs to goats to chickens. Some were pets, some were mascots, and some were onboard for when the voyage got long and the food got scarce.
That’s no longer the case in today’s Navy. At least, it’s not the case in the American Navy. If there are any animals onboard a current ship, you can rest assured that they are permanently retired in the freezer. While there are many reasons for this, including health and hygiene, having a pet or mascot onboard would certainly liven things up a bit. During part of my 2nd deployment, we made an exception to the rule.
We got underway from Norfolk, VA and started the journey across the Atlantic. Depending upon your course and speed, it normally takes 10-14 days to cross this particular pond. Around day 4, something strange happened. While standing watch at night, the bridge team heard something that sounded like a cricket. Obviously, hearing a cricket at night is nothing out of the ordinary back here. When you haven’t seen land in 4 days, however, it is slightly strange.
The bridge team (I was not a part of this watch) decided to search for the source of the sound. On the bridge wings, there were platforms that were raised about a foot off the ground. This was normally where the lookouts stood to get a better view. By lifting the platform and using a flashlight, they were able to find the cricket on the port side.
Nobody knows how the cricket managed to get onboard and then get to one of the highest points of the ship. It was obvious, however, that it had managed to survive on it’s own for 4 full days at sea. With that type of fortitude and ingenuity, the crew did what any group of sailors would have done at that point. We made it our mascot. We would bring it lettuce from the galley and make sure that it was ok during every watch.
I was on the bridge the first time that the Captain was introduced to the cricket. Someone went up to him and asked, “Sir, have you met the cricket yet?” The Captain said something along the lines of, “What the hell are you talking about?” The sailor took him over to the port bridge wing and pointed to the corner under the platform. The Captain’s exact words were, “Holy Sh*t! That’s a cricket!”
To the best of my knowledge, the cricket made it all the way across the Atlantic with us. No one is really sure what happened to him after that. Personally, I believe that it made a colossal jump onto the Rock of Gibraltar as we passed. He is currently frolicking on a farm in Southern Spain with lots of other crickets. I’m pretty sure this is what happened.