Voices Forged by the Sea

by Naval History and Heritage Command
17 December 2021

Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) is excited to announce its second annual New Year’s Day Deck Log Contest.

A ship’s log has always been a vital tool for the navigation of the sea and the exchange of information. While the contents of a deck log are generally fiercely regulated, the United States Navy has long held the tradition of the Midnight New Year’s Day Poem - the first entry of the New Year, written in verse, that gives a brief glimpse into the minds of sailors and shipboard life, and provides a human voice to what can otherwise be a somewhat impersonal sounding document.

191231-N-HI376-1040.jpg
191231-N-HI376-1040 PHILIPPINE SEA (Dec. 31, 2019) Quartermaster 3rd Class Luke Farley, from Springfield, Ill., writes the New Year deck log entry on the bridge of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62). Chancellorsville is forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeremy Graham/Released)
191231-N-HI376-1040.jpg
191231-N-HI376-1040
191231-N-HI376-1040 PHILIPPINE SEA (Dec. 31, 2019) Quartermaster 3rd Class Luke Farley, from Springfield, Ill., writes the New Year deck log entry on the bridge of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62). Chancellorsville is forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeremy Graham/Released)
Photo By: MC1 Jeremy Graham
VIRIN: 191231-N-HI376-1040

Everything we know about sea travel today is because someone else, at some point, wrote it down. Antonio Pigafetta – a relatively unknown name, but one immensely important to the history of the deck log, was one of the almost 300 crew that set sail under the famed Magellan-Elcano expedition in 1519. In 1522, he was one of only 18 men who returned to Spain, successfully completing the first circumnavigation of the world. In those 3 years, Pigafetta kept a meticulous daily journal recording all events that had occurred during the voyage, including detailed notes on the geography, climate, flora, fauna, and people the expedition encountered. He also inadvertently documented the international dateline (not officially established until 1884). His comprehensive notes proved invaluable to later navigators.

Times change, and while no longer a vital navigation tool, the ship’s log (or deck log) is still an indispensable source of information.

The focus of the New Year’s Day Deck Log Contest is to celebrate the voices of our Sailors and to help preserve the Midnight New Year’s Day Poem Navy tradition.

To enter the contest, please email a PDF copy of the deck log page(s) with your poem to the Deck Log Email with “New Year’s Day Deck Log Contest Submission” in the subject line. All submissions must be received by Friday, 25 February 2022. Due to the public facing nature of this contest, submissions should not contain classified material.
200101-N-ME568-1001.jpg
200101-N-ME568-1001 PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 1, 2020) Quartermaster 3rd Class Ryan Gouger, from Newberg, Ore., writes the first deck log of the year while standing Quartermaster of the Watch on the bridge of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. With Abraham Lincoln as the flagship, deployed strike group assets include staffs and aircraft of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2 and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dan Snow/Released)
200101-N-ME568-1001.jpg
200101-N-ME568-1001
200101-N-ME568-1001 PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 1, 2020) Quartermaster 3rd Class Ryan Gouger, from Newberg, Ore., writes the first deck log of the year while standing Quartermaster of the Watch on the bridge of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. With Abraham Lincoln as the flagship, deployed strike group assets include staffs and aircraft of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2 and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dan Snow/Released)
Photo By: MC3 Dan Snow
VIRIN: 200101-N-ME568-1001

If a Sailor would like to be recognized as the author of the poem, they must provide their contact information with the submission email. The poem can also be submitted anonymously. In cases with no named author, the ship will be recognized and receive the award.

Poems will be judged on coherence, imagery, originality, and how they reflect the sailor experience. Selections will be made for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. Winners will be featured on the NHHC website alongside historic examples from generations past. Top prize for 1st place is a piece of historic USS Constitution copper. Winners will be announced in late April 2022.

For examples of poems and more information, see NHHCs website: https://www.history.navy.mil/content/history/nhhc/research/archives/resources-for-the-fleet/deck-logs/new-years-contest.html

For questions on how to submit, or general questions regarding the contest, please call the NHHC Archives at (202) 433-3224


Previous Story
Next Story