February 4, 1957: The first nuclear-powered submarine, USS Nautilus, logs her 60,000th nautical mile. This matches the fictional Nautilus’s endurance in Jules Verne’s classic science fiction novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The USS Nautilus was launched on January 21, 1954 from the Thames River. She was commissioned on September 30, 1954.
The Nautilus was 320 feet long and 28 feet at the beam with a draft of 26 feet. She was crewed by 13 officers and 92 men and was the first sub to travel submerged under the North Pole. Operation Sunshine took the ship and crew, then commanded by William R Anderson, under the Pole. On August 3, 1958 at 11:15 pm, she became the first watercraft to reach the geographic North Pole. Navigation under the ice cap was difficult due to magnetic interferences from the magnetic pole. Ice extended as much as 60 feet below sea level.
Prior to nuclear power, most submarines were submerged only at intervals and did most of their traveling on top of the water like ships. The Nautilus spent most of her career in the Atlantic. The ship conducted tests to improve the design of submarines. She was involved in NATO exercises. In 1962, the ship was part of the navel quarantine of Cuba. She underwent two separate overhauls during her career, the first in 1959 and again in 1966.
During the spring of 1966 the USS Nautilus logged her 300,000th mile. In the spring of 1979 she left Groton, Connecticut on her final voyage and arrived at mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California on May 26, 1979, her last day underway. She was decommissioned on March 3, 1980 and was designated a National Historic Landmark on May 20, 1982.
“I must confess that my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and floundering at sea.” – H. G. Wells
“Some ships are designed to sink… others require our assistance.” – Nathan Zelk
“Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real” – Jules Verne
“The sea is as near as we come to another world.” – Anne Stevenson
Also on this day, in 1932, the third Winter Olympics began at Lake Placid, New York.