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Can This Quirky Naval Poetry Tradition Make a Comeback?

On every Naval watch shift, an officer records the workaday vital signs of the ship, which might include a chronology of the ship’s movements or particulars of its anchorage, the status of its power systems, vessels spotted nearby, and absentees or injuries onboard. For many ships, logs are held by the Navy for 30 years before moving to the National Archives. It’s generally a dry administrative document. But a long-standing Navy tradition holds that the first deck-log entry of the new year may be written in verse. It’s unclear when or why this tradition began; the earliest mentions date to 1926, according to the Navy, and seem to indicate the tradition was already established. The practice continued during subsequent decades: The New Year’s verse was once a popular enough element of Navy life that the official All Hands magazine and the independent Navy Times held annual contests to decide the best poems, and a Navy-trained astronaut even carried it to the International Space Station’s ship log in the first hours of 2001. Read more

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