On this day in 1958, the U.S. nuclear submarine Nautilus – completed the first undersea voyage to the geographic North Pole. The world’s first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus dived at Point Barrow, Alaska, and traveled nearly 1,000 miles under the Arctic ice cap to reach the top of the world. It then traveled on to Iceland, pioneering a new and shorter route from the Pacific to the Atlantic and Europe.

Construction of the USS Nautilus commenced, under the direction of U.S. Navy Captain Hyman G. Rickover, in 1952 and she was launched less than two years later. Rickover was a brilliant Russian-born engineer who joined the US atomic project in 1946 and in 1947 he was put in charge of the navy’s nuclear-propulsion programme which he delivered years ahead of schedule.

After a career spanning 25 years and almost 500,000 miles traveled was decommissioned on 3 March 1980. Designated a National Historic Landmark in the world’s first nuclear submarine is now on exhibit at the Submarine Force Museum in Groton, Connecticut.

There were three earlier US vessels called Nautilus; the first of these was a 12 gun schooner launched in 1799. She was captured by the British early in the War of 1812 and renamed HMS Emulous. The second Nautilus was a coastal survey ship launched in 1838. She fought in the Mexican-American war of 1838 & 1839 before returning to survey duties. The third Nautilus was a Narwhal Class submarine launched in 1930 and served as flagship at Pearl Harbor. After the US entered WW2 Nautilus took part in 15 naval actions in the Pacific including the Battle of Midway. She survived the war and was decommissioned and scrapped in 1945.

In fiction Nautilus was the name of Captain Nemo’s ship in the Jules Verne novels Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) and The Mysterious Island (1874). In Star Trek USS Nautilus was a Miranda class starship which took part in the First Battle of Chin’toka. A new film Star Trek Nautilus is currently in pre-production.

Category: Historic Events

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