By Nick Mattos, PQ Monthly
Hooray! 2013’s climb of the lubed-up Herndon Monument by over a thousand first-year Naval Academy students certainly didn’t disappoint.
Everyone can use some good news today, and here’s some: yesterday, the U.S. Naval Academy held their annual Herndon Climb, the “plebes-no-more” ceremony in which first-year students all work together to climb a greased-up Herndon Monument. The U.S. Naval Academy describes the event:
At the sound of a cannon blast, 1,000 eager, screaming plebes charge toward a 21-foot grey monument that taunted them all year. They attempt to climb the lard-covered obelisk as thousands of spectators watch with the hopes that they complete the task quickly. This event at the U.S. Naval Academy is known simply as “Herndon” or the “Plebe Recognition Ceremony.”
The plebe class works together to accomplish the goal of retrieving a white plebe “dixie cup” hat from atop the monument and replace it with an upperclassmen’s hat. It is a tradition that has endured at the Naval Academy for many years. More than 200 pounds of lard applied to the monument by upperclass midshipmen complicate the task.
Whether or not Commander William Lewis Herndon would want a thousand young, lubed-up military folks to rub all over one another in an effort to scale his memorial is really beside the point — it’s perhaps one of the hottest (and most homoerotic) Naval traditions in the world, and has been since at least 1962. So hot, in fact, that Washington, DC-based physique- and commercial photographer Scott Henrichsen headed down to Annapolis, Maryland to snap some choice images of the plebes becoming midshipmen:
This year’s class completed the task in 1 hour, 32 minutes and 43 seconds. The hat was placed by Patrick Lien, whom the Capital Gazette reports is a second-generation monument-scaler:
Patrick Lien had the honor Monday of emerging from a pile of plebes at the U.S. Naval Academy and putting a midshipman’s hat atop the greased Herndon Monument.
The Orlando, Fla., native reached as high as he could, gently tossed the hat atop the monument and saluted a crowd of hundreds on the academy’s Yard with a victorious left fist-pump…
Lien said he was proud to carry on Herndon climb tradition. His father climbed the monument with the Class of 1981.
Covered in sweat and lard, Lien said he had no expectation he’d be the one to top the monument. At one point, he said, he sat out for a little bit to get some perspective. Then he made his move.
“It just kind of happened,” Lien said. “I’m speechless, to be honest … I don’t think (my dad’s) going to believe me.”
God bless America!