USS Nautilus

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USS Nautilus (SSN-571) was the world's first operational nuclear-powered submarine and the first vessel to complete a submerged transit across the North Pole. In July 1951 the US Congress authorized the construction of a nuclear-powered submarine for the U.S. Navy, which was planned and personally supervised by Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, known as the "Father of the Nuclear Navy." On 12 December 1951 the U.S. Department of the Navy announced that the submarine would be called Nautilus the fourth U.S. Navy vessel officially so named and would carry the hull number SSN-571. Nautilus's keel was laid at General Dynamics' Electric Boat Division in Groton, Connecticut by Harry S. Truman, President of the United States, on 14 June 1952, and the ship was designed by John Burnham. She was christened on 21 January 1954 and launched into the Thames River, sponsored by Mamie Eisenhower, the wife of Truman's successor Dwight D. Eisenhower. Nautilus was commissioned on 30 September 1954, under the command of Commander Eugene P. Wilkinson, USN. Nautilus was powered by the S2W naval reactor, a pressurized water reactor produced for the U.S. Navy by Westinghouse Electric Corporation. She submerged in the Barrow Sea Valley on 1 August and on 3 August 1958, at 2315 (EDST) she became the first watercraft to reach the geographic North Pole. From the North Pole, she continued on and after 96 hours and 2,945 km (1,590 nmi) under the ice, she surfaced northeast of Greenland, having completed the first successful submerged voyage across the North Pole. The technical details of this mission were planned by scientists from the Naval Electronics Laboratory including Dr. Waldo Lyon who accompanied Nautilus as chief scientist and ice pilot. Navigation beneath the arctic ice sheet was difficult. Above 85 degrees both magnetic compasses and normal gyrocompasses become inaccurate. A special gyrocompass built by Sperry Rand was installed shortly before the journey. There was a risk that the submarine would become disoriented beneath the ice and that the crew would have to play "longitude roulette". Cmdr Anderson had considered using torpedoes to blow a hole in the ice if the submarine needed to surface. Nautilus was designated a National Historic Landmark by the United States Secretary of the Interior on 20 May 1982. She was named as the official state ship of Connecticut in 1983. Following an extensive conversion at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Nautilus was towed back to Groton, Connecticut arriving on 6 July 1985. On April 11, 1986, Nautilus opened to the public as part of the U.S. Navy Submarine Force Museum and Library. Nautilus now serves as a museum of submarine history, after undergoing a five-month preservation in 2002, at the Electric Boat division of General Dynamics, at a cost of approximately $4.7 million. The historic ship Nautilus attracts some 250,000 visitors annually to her present berth near the Naval Submarine Base New London, at the U.S. Navy Submarine Force Museum and Library in Groton. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]





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