USS NAUTILUS (SSN-571)

Class: Nautilus

USS Nautilus is the world's first nuclear-powered submarine. Her propulsion system is a landmark in the history of naval engineering and submersible craft. All vessels previously known as "submarines" were in fact only submersible vessels that has to surace to replenish their air supply and charge the electrical batteries needed for underwater propulsion. Although, on NAUTILUS, we could not make our own oxygen; we were able to carry bottled oxygen that allowed us to replenish our air supply while we were submerged. A carbon dioxide scrubber removed the carbon dioxide from our air, prior to bleeding in oxygen

Construction of NAUTILUS was made possible by the successful development of a nuclear propulsion plant by a group of scientists and engineers at the Naval Reactors Branch of the Atomic Energy Commission, under the leadership of Captain Hyman G.Rickover, USN. In July of 1951 Congress authorized construction of the world's first nuclear powered submarine and on December 12th of that year, the Navy Department announced that the 571 boat would be the sixth ship of the fleet to bear the name NAUTILUS. Her keel was laid by President Harry S. Truman at the Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, Connecticut onJune 14, 1952.

After nearly 18 months of construction, NAUTILUS was launched on January 21, 1954 with First Lady Mamie Eisenhower breaking the traditional bottle of champagne across our bow as NAUTILUS slid down the ways into the Thames River. Eight months later,on September 30, 1954, NAUTILUS became the first commissioned nuclear powered ship in the United States Navy. This nuclear power also allowed us to manufacture up to 5000 gallons of fresh water every day we were at sea and along with the carbon dioxide scrubber and bottled oxygen it enabled the boat to remain submerged for weeks and months at a time.

On the morning of January 17, 1955, at 11 am EST, NAUTILUS' first CommandingOfficer, Commander Eugene P. Wilkinson, USN, ordered all lines cast off and signaled the memorable and historic message, "Underway On Nuclear Power." Over the next several years, NAUTILUS shattered all submerged speed and distance records.

After an unsuccessful probe under the Artic ice from the Atlantic side in December 1957, Nautilus left New London, Connecticut the following spring failed in an attempt to get under the North Pole from the Pacific side. We then retreated into Pearl Harbor to await a third shot at the pole.

On July 23, 1958, NAUTILUS departed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii under top secret orders to conduct "Operation Sunshine," the first crossing of the north pole by a ship. On the way to the Arctic NAUTILUS logged "forty thousanf leagues under the sea" and at 11:15pm on August 3, 1958, NAUTILUS' second Commanding Officer, Commander William R. Anderson, USN, announced to his crew "For the world, Our Country, and the Navy - the North Pole." With 116 men aboard, NAUTILUS had accomplished the "impossible,"reaching the geographic North Pole at 90 degrees north.

In May 1959, NAUTILUS entered Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine for her first complete overhaul, the first of any nuclear powered ship, and the replacement of her second fuel core. Upon completion of her overhaul in August 1960, NAUTILUS departed for a period of refresher training, then deployed to the Mediterranean Sea to become the first nuclear powered submarine assigned to the U.S. Sixth Fleet.

Over the next six years, NAUTILUS participated in several fleet exercises while steaming over 200,000 miles. In the spring of 1966, she again entered the record books when she logged her 300,000th mile underway. During the following 12 years, NAUTILUS was involved in a variety of developmental testing programs while continuing to serve alongside many of the more modern nuclear powered submarines she had preceded.

In the spring of 1979, NAUTILUS set out from Groton, Connecticut on her final voyage. She reached Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, California on May 26, 1979; her last day underway. She was decommissioned on March 3, 1980 after a career spanning 25 years and almost half a million miles steamed. In recognition of her pioneering role in the practical use of nuclear power, NAUTILUS was designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior on May 20, 1982.

Following an extensive historic ship conversion at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, NAUTILUS was towed to Groton, Connecticut arriving on July 6, 1985.

On April 11, 1986, eighty-six years to the day after the birth of the Submarine Force, Historic Ship NAUTILUS, joined by the Submarine Force Museum, opened to the public as the first and finest exhibit of it's kind in the world, providing an exciting, visible link between yesterday's Submarine Force and the Submarine Force of tomorrow.

USS Nautilus (SSN571) is a National Historic Landmark and Connecticut's State Ship.

Link to Nautilus home page