According to an official history, the celebration dates to 1907. The monument is in a part of the yard once called "Love Lane," an area where plebes were barred more than a century ago, according to the official history. Upperclassmen could meet women there on a Sunday afternoon. After the 1907 graduation, the mids who just finished their plebe year — the Class of 1910 — swarmed around the monument, celebrating their right to walk on Love Lane. That ritual grew into a snake dance. Climbing the monument began in 1940.
The monument was named for Cmdr. William Louis Herndon, who displayed heroism as he struggled to save his mail steamer during a violent storm in 1857. But he died when his ship sank.
Fowler said he has heard that some mids aren't fans of the climb, and he said interest may decline in the future.
Meanwhile, the focus on the Sea Trials has grown. "It is aligned with the fleet," he said, noting the teamwork, planning and leadership that go into the Sea Trials.
But traditions at the academy have been changed in the past.
More than a generation ago, the Naval Academy ended what it considered a dangerous tradition of first-year midshipmen — the seniors getting commissioned — jumping off the sea wall into the Severn River after their final parade, when they wouldn't need their parade clothing again. Some mids replaced that in later years with leaping into a reflecting pool, Ferris said. He was among those who didn't take part in that tradition.
In more recent years, after their final parade, graduating mids have taken to jumping into the fountains, and underclassmen have also carried off the seniors to soak them in a fountain.