Voices Forged by the Sea
17 December 2021
Washington, D.C. --
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.
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.
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