For Naval Academy Freshmen, Summer Can’t Begin Until They’ve Climbed This Obelisk
At the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, freshmen must work together to scale a 21-foot obelisk covered in 50 pounds of lard. The annual tradition states: “first-year students can’t begin their summer until they replace an underclassman’s “dixie cup” hat at the top of the monument with an upperclassman’s hat.
This year it took the freshmen (who are known as plebes at the academy) 2 hours, 21 minutes and 21 seconds to complete the challenge. Upon completion they are no longer known as plebes, but fourth-class midshipmen.
According to Fox: ‘The fastest any class has ever done it was in 1972, when it only took a minute and 30 seconds. Of course, the monument was not greased that year. In 1998, it took plebes over four hours– but the dixie cup hat was glued and taped in place, presenting a greater challenge.’ [source]
The obelisk is officially known as the Herndon Monument. It is named for Commander William Lewis Herndon, 1813-1857, who possessed the qualities of discipline, teamwork and courage.
In command of the SS Central America and home-bound with gold-seekers from California, the ship encountered a three-day hurricane off the coast of North Carolina. Herndon went down with his ship after a gallant effort to save it, its sailors and passengers. A monument was erected on the Yard in his honor shortly after his death.